Based on Guy de Maupassant’s classic novel, this tale of temptation and obsession chronicles Georges Duroy’s (Robert Pattinson) rise to power from his meager beginnings as a penniless ex-soldier by using the city’s most influential and wealthy women. Set in turn of the century Paris, Duroy seduces Madame de Marelle (Christina Ricci) then marries Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman), a former comrade's wife. Fueled by his insatiable quest and lustful greed, Duroy conquers Madame Walter (Kristen Scott Thomas), only to learn that every conquest is marred by betrayal and that true love eludes him.
A period drama based on Guy de Maupassant's classic novel of the same name, Bel Ami is a story about power, corruption, greed, and the seduction of influential women. Set in Paris in 1890, the film opens with the destitute Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) having just returned from war and desperate to scratch out a living. A chance encounter with fellow ex-soldier Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister) offers Georges an introduction to high society, where he discovers that the wives (Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci) of some of the most prominent men in Paris hold the power to elevate Georges' social and political standing. Georges is a shrewd manipulator and seducer of women, and though he experiences betrayal and scorn at the hands of these powerful wives, his efforts yield meteoric social, political, and economic success. He never looks back at the women he's hurt or what might be missing in his personal life. The costuming in Bel Ami is stunning and effective, but great costuming is not the only necessary ingredient in a first-class period film. Pattinson never wins over the audience--he seems stony-faced and sullen much of the time, and he quite simply lacks the charisma the role requires. The audience is left puzzled as to why the women in the film are so attracted to Georges and why they can't see his ill intent. Ricci gives the most powerful performance as Clotilde, and Scott Thomas and Thurman also acquit themselves well, although key portions of dialogue with Thurman are very difficult to discern. Viewers will find themselves genuinely detesting most of the characters as well as the "moral" that by doing bad, man wins big--and that's just what the film's producers and author Maupassant likely intended. --Tami Horiuchi