Bel Ami

Fri, Mar 9, 2012, 00:00

Directed by Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod. Starring Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colm Meaney, Holliday Grainger 16 cert, general release, 102 min

DANGEROUS LIAISONS with Twilight’s Edward? Sadly, Bel Amiis nothing like Dangerous Liaisons with Twilight’s Edward. Set in turn-of-the-century France, this muddled adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel is a confusing and pointless gallimaufry of corsets, petticoats, a naked Robert Pattinson and billets-doux.

Somewhere around the 90- minute mark we come to realise we’ve been watching a drama about a peasant soldier (Pattinson) who rises through Parisian society with the aid of a troika of mistresses, played by Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristen Scott Thomas. We’re only relieved someone knows what’s going on.

Pattinson works hard to articulate Georges Duroy, an unlikeable but mostly blank antihero adrift in an impressionistic film. Pattinson is a better actor than Bel Ami’s thin, erratic characterisation allows him to be. But rest assured: the rest of the cast is equally squandered.

The film-makers give us little to hang on to until the grandes dames turn in late grandstanding moments. A murky subplot about war in Morocco becomes a fumbled reveal. Scandals are explained clumsily and retrospectively.

As with the writing, the production is relentlessly shallow, with camera work that hovers between close-up and extreme close-up. For a heritage picture, Bel Amilooks awfully like a video- booth diary with the flattering luminosity of Vaseline on the lens.

There are saving graces. Thurman puts in her best turn since Kill Billand, when she assumes ghost-writing duties for Pattinson’s star journalist, fashions an arch riposte to her youthful role in Liaisons. Colm Meaney, playing Duroy’s powerful employer, is no end of fun and snide remarks. The dresses and curtains are oh-so-pretty.

This year’s Dangerous Liaisons? More like this year’s Water for Elephants.