“Does your husband tell you you’re beautiful?”
Almost two years after production completed on Bel Ami, the indie film has finally arrived to eager moviegoers. Well, sort of. The official theatrical release for the film isn’t until June 8th, but that didn’t stop the powers at be from giving us a sneak peek. It’s times like these that I’m grateful for iTunes. Based on Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel, Bel Ami is a seductive drama, lined with deceptive characters with ill-intentions. A social climber using his looks and charm to get what he desires most. Power. Respect. Wealth. Here we find an intriguing plot, rich with gritty realism and soul.
The Story: Paris, 1890. It’s easy to see the motivation behind the actions of Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson). Penniless and out-of-work, Georges longs for something more; money, power, women – everything he doesn’t have. Georges finds his opportunity when he is welcomed into the inner circle of Charles Forestier: a newspaper man. His wife, Madeleine (Uma Thurman), takes Georges under her wing, helping him write a series of articles about his time as a soldier. Their friends are captivated by the young man, willing to help the charming stranger. Instantly, Georges finds himself attracted to Clotilde (Christina Ricci). The feeling is mutual, both seeking each other out for a specific purpose. However, when Clotilde is no longer useful, Georges moves on. He soon finds Madeleine to be just what he needs. She is his ticket to success, the driving force behind his rise to power. Yet, he is still unable to gain the respect he wants, craves. It’s a story of sex; power. Using one to gain the other. There is no momentous revelation or great change for these characters. Their reality is their obsession.
The Characters & their Actors: Without a doubt, this is Robert Pattinson’s movie. He outshines every other performance; his facial expressions and movements dictating everything Georges is feeling – experiencing – without using copious amounts of dialogue. It’s fascinating, watching him go from scene to scene. This film is just another example of how much range he has – excelling from film to film. It’s clear from the beginning, this is a different role for the actor. Georges is a mess, unkempt and desperate. His relationships are out of convenience, rather than love. In actuality, Madeleine is his equal. They are the same, using one another to secure their desires. It isn’t until a rather graphic scene that we truly begin to understand Madeleine’s character; her control over him, the same way he is using other women to get what he wants. It was that scene, where I saw a rival for Pattinson’s performance, though it was gone just as quickly. Thurman plays Madeleine as an intelligent, conniving feminist. A vast contrast to Ricci’s Clotilde. I found her character flat, without any motivations or goals. Her faith in Georges was unwavering and relatable, but Ricci’s performance did not make an impression.
This movie is not for everybody, I will admit. Film buff’s will get lost-in-love with the deep metaphors and character analysis. Others may have a hard time connecting to the story, as it relies heavily on the characters movements and actions, rather than spoken words. I may have an unfair advantage, since not only am I film-obsessed, but also have a deep-seeded appreciation for British dramas (a.k.a. I love them. A lot). Sometimes I felt as though I was missing something, the critical lines of dialogue somehow pushing the story and audience forward before either of us were ready. Although, it was interesting to follow these characters. They all have ulterior motives and secret desires. You’ll want to study them, dissect their actions; follow the journey Georges takes to get what he wants. This is his film. Even when you witness his deplorable actions, you still want to embrace his character, to understand him. The film was not as I expected, and yet it was. There are classic elements relative to almost all British dramas. The music in the film, taking on a life of its own, allowing each scene to easily flow into one another, creating a well-performed ballet of sorts. Every element of the film seemed to come together almost as an elaborate play. In the end, only hours after I’d watched the film, I wanted to see it again.
Movie Rating: B+
If you liked Bel Ami, you might also like: Trailer Talk: Bel Ami
Have you seen Bel Ami? Will you? What did you think of the movie? Have you read the novel? Do you think the movie adaptation did justice to the novel? What was your favorite scene? Favorite character? Will you see it more than once in the theatre? Tell me in the comments!