On Friday I went to see Bel Ami. A new movie starring Robert Pattinson, finally in a completely different role than a sparkly vampire/ teennage heartthrob. At least that’s what I was hoping for. If you are curious about seeing Bel Ami and want to know what I thought, then keep on reading.
The movie is based on the short novel by Guy de Maupassant. Set (and written) in the late 19th century, the tale involves Georges Du Roy, the Bel Ami from the title. Georges is an unemployed soldier who has just arrived in Paris. His goal is to get ahead in life and when he meets his old friend Charles Forestier his luck changes quite rapidly. Charles has turned into a wealthy man and takes Georges under his wing. He invites him to dinner and it is here when Georges meets his future in the form of three ladies: Madeleine Forestier, Virginie Rousset, and Clotilde De Marelle. Georges learns that his way up isn’t by trying hard or making nice with the men, but by coaxing and making nice with the ladies. He literally screws his way up the social ladder and gets away with well everything.
That’s the story and that’s the story the movie tells you, only it has some limitations. I think it is great to finally see Rob Pattinson do something other than playing the Romantic Hero. Georges is anything but, at least in the book. In the movie, however: not so much. In the book I never had any reason to feel sorry for the guy, as he is cunning, clever and well down right mean at times. In the movie, he isn’t the one playing these women, but certainly Madeleine, also plays him. It isn’t until the very end of the movie, when Georges finally gets what he wants, that his big plan is revealed, whereas in the book, which is written from Georges perspective, you know of his intentions quite early on. This gives the storyline a twist which is not for the better.
In fact, I thought that the story in the movie was quite drab, as opposed to the novel, which I couldn’t put down. There is a definitive lull in the movie about half way through and it doesn’t get much better after that. It also feels as if the first half of the story is stretched out over 3/4 of the movie, and the ending was done quite hastily. I think, for someone who hasn’t read the book it may not even make sense in the first place. It’s too chopped up and the twist in the ending is too sudden. Where I ended the book with a slick smile on my face, the movie made me frown.
So all in all I didn’t like this movie very much. What I heard was that the directors tried to make this movie at least somewhat muted in order to sell it. Because it has Rob in it, best known for playing Edward in teenage franchise Twilight, they couldn’t make Georges the mean beast he really is. Unfortunately by cutting the menace from the story, they killed it. It was good to see Rob do something different for a change and the fact that the three leading ladies are all great actresses as well surely helps the movie. The sets are amazing, the costumes are amazing. The only thing not so much amazing is the story and the way in which it is told.