Robert Pattinson steps away from the Twilight saga to show a little bite as the greed-fuelled protagonist of Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod’s dark period drama BEL AMI.
Adapted from the novel of the same name, the teen heartthrob embodies the role of a former soldier and son of a peasant, Georges Duroy, who climbs the social ladder of 1890s Paris by manipulating many of the city’s most influential and wealthy women.
Watching Georges employ his powers of seduction to rise to power while at the same time sinking ever-deeper into a state of moral deficiency is somewhat compelling to watch if only for how Pattinson’s unexpectedly dark performance plays off the elegant Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristen Scott Thomas.
However, Donnellan and Ormerod are unable to sustain your enjoyment of BEL AMI because of a lack of drive and momentum to their narrative. Once the rise-and-fall narrative of its hero is in motion, it struggles to find anywhere engaging to go, stumbling around in circles until it becomes contrived and tiresome.
In an attempt to seemingly compensate for this dramatic poverty various subplots from political scandal to media corruption are thrown into the story. But while the ideas are interesting at no point do they transform into anything purposeful.
As the story plods towards its conclusion – though having accomplished very little – and Georges Duroy inevitably threatens to lose his position in high society, BEL AMI’s attempts to take a turn towards the utterly mad. But though it aspires to have connotations of American Psycho in its finale, the clumsy, often unintentionally funny dialogue and theatrical performances from the supporting cast shatter any realism, plummeting the film into a laughing stock of unintentional hilarity.
In spite of his fame as the hero of Twilight, there’s a bright future for Robert Pattinson in the film industry as his brave choice to take on Bel Ami demonstrates. However, the film itself is a mess of disjointed ideas, poor dialogue and narrative confusion.