I actually watched Bel Ami a long, long time ago when it was first released in the UK, but I rewatched it today in prep for university interviews. The first time I watched it, I thought it was an excellent film, albeit with some moments with dodgy acting and raunchy sex scenes. After a while; however, I began to think that it really wasn’t a very good film at all and that I had simply been caught up in the moment. Now, after watching it for the second time, I’m back to thinking that it’s not that bad a film at all.
Bel Ami is an adaption of the novel of the same title by Guy de Maupassant. I can’t say whether the film sticks to the original story or not, but with most films that answer is usually no. Bel Ami follows the story of George Duroy and his rise to power in Paris by manipulating the wives of the most influential men in the city.
At first I thought that Robert Pattinson was doing an excellent job and his acting was great, however, it soon became a source of much hilarity. Pattinson really does the ‘tortured’ face well and he basically had that look plastered on his face for this entire movie. In fact, it was pretty much identical to the face he pulls whenever Edward Cullen can smell human blood. Suffice to say, Robert Pattinson will never be anything more than the sparkly vampire from those teen movies. The other actors, however, were superb. The three main women were portrayed by Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci and they all had very different characters that were pulled off equally well. Had these three women not done such a brilliant job I think I would’ve just rolled around laughing for the majority of the film. Each of these women has an incredibly compelling character, each affected by some sort of demon. Appearances were very important in nineteenth century France so these actresses were essentially playing two women.
I was quite disappointed that the director didn’t make more a point that this story is set in Paris as I could’ve easily mistaken it for London. There are no distinctively French features, in my opinion, which is a great shame because this is seen to be one of the greatest pieces of French literature. I think that the ‘French’ness of the story was definitely lost, but it was interesting nevertheless. I was inspired by this film to research more into the novel of this film and other works by French writers in the nineteenth century as it seemed to be a thoroughly intriguing period of history. This film has an excellent soundtrack and the music really adds to the atmosphere of the story. The same piece of music is used throughout to create an ominous and tense feeling, but it works very well.
All in all, I suppose I would recomend this film because it’s a really good story; however, if you’re watching it on the merit of Robert Pattinson’s acting then you will sorely disappointed. Watch this film for the women, not for the men, as ultimately they are they most powerful women in this film.