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Bel Ami

Merde - ★

I’d happily leave the review at that but we’re not nearly as cool as Mongrel was, so take a few minutes to read this and at least you won’t have wasted 100 minutes of your life. 

Georges Duroy is an ex-military man recently returned to Paris and it’s Robert Patterson’s job to give the character life. He fails miserably. Duroy is supposed to be a suave, cunning manipulator of people using them all for his own betterment. Whereas Patterson plays him as wide grinned imbecile, unable to give any menace or intrigue to the character.

I’m not a Patterson hater, I quite like the Twilight films (as followers of the site will know) but here he simply can’t act. It’s embarrassing to watch as he stumbles his way through this almost laughable affair seeming like a lost soldier in the desert. In the few scenes where he has to really let go he manages to pull it off but it’s the more low key pieces where he resorts to his moronic smile, seeming to think this is the image of a rogue.

| o | - Carry on cringing...

The failings don’t rest solely at his feet however, no one really escapes this with their head held high. First off we have Uma Thurman playing Madeleine Forestier the wife of the newspaper editor who has an incredibly breathy accent more accustomed to a phone sex worker than a french society woman. Ricci plays Clotilde de Marelle who thinks cockney is the accent of the day and finally we have Kirsten Scott Thomas acting like a besotted teen while being in her mid forties. These menageries of accents and ridiculous characters all combine to give a shambles of a film more akin to a “Carry On” movie than a new version of Dangerous Liaisons.

Now I haven’t read the novel by Guy de Maupassant so I’m unaware of the tone of the book but I’m sure it’s either a comical look at Parisian society or a satire. Not a mish mash of the two which unfortunately this film is. If it had stuck to one we’d all be the better for it, instead we are subjected to this cringe-inducing car crash of a film. The sets and costumes are well constructed  and the dialogue isn’t that atrocious, it simply lies with the acting. Obviously the directors, yes there are two of them – Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod – can’t reign them in or don’t know what they are trying to achieve, which leaves everyone lost and confused.

What could have been a welcome addition to the canon of French period dramas is instead a hackneyed unintentional farcical affair. Quelle dommage.

UK  / Directed By: Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod / Written By: Rachel Bennette / Starring: Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas  / 102min / Drama / Release: 9 March 2012 (UK/Irl)