Bel Ami (review)

Bel Ami red light Uma Thurman Robert Pattinson

Welcome to the costume-drama equivalent of Project X, celebrating misogyny and male sociopathy as just the way things are, and what else can ya expect from the world? I sincerely hope that all the swooning Twilight fangirls don’t find anything to fantasize about here: Oh please oh please, could RPatz use and abuse and abandon me? That would be so romantic! I continue to feel bad for Robert Pattinson (Remember Me), who is obviously so eager to prove his actorly cred but who cannot get it up — metaphorically speaking, that is — here. It’s hard to see how he manages to get anywhere with any of the three women his Georges Duroy beds, which is a particular problem because his former soldier and poor schmoe, of 1890s Paris, is allegedly irresistible to three very different women with very different sexual agendas. One, Uma Thurman’s (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) ambitious journalist and politician (in an era when women could be neither) wants to use him as a stand-in for her thwarted professional aspirations… ie, she fucks him, and in return, he is her professional puppet, submitting articles to a radical newspaper under his name that she writes for him. Another, Kristin Scott Thomas’s (The Woman in the Fifth) matron, is desperate for a young lover, because that’s what earns a middle-aged Belle Epoque Parisian woman the respect of her peers. The third, Christina Ricci’s (Alpha and Omega) sweetheart, honestly just loves the dude. I felt a glimmer of hope at first, when Thurman’s frankly awesome character — I so wish the movie had been about her — alerts Duroy that “the most important people in Paris are not the men; the most important people in Paris are their wives.” I anticipated a certain appreciation for this reality that would lend some sympathy to the women, and would smack some criticism upon the men. But the first-time feature team of screenwriter Rachel Bennette and directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod end up saying nothing so much as “A man who uses women and uses sex for social advancement is admirable and ends up successful, but a woman who does the same is tragic, and probably a little crazy.” I haven’t read the Guy de Maupassant novel [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] upon which this is based, so I cannot judge for myself whether the story is intended to celebrate male piggishness and privilege — if it does, then, you know, ewww, and why would you want to tell such a story today? — but certainly, there is no criticism of it in the film. Bel Ami is not witty, and it’s absolutely not sexy. It’s merely a bald-faced slow-clap of “just another selfish brutal man,” and in no way that has anything revealing or significant to say.

Watch Bel Ami online via Amazon Instant Video.

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