In the realms of Hollywood, often times redundant usage of film strips reveal only what a million others have already revealed; the story has been seen over and over again with nothing to make the film stand out from others alike. One that has recently followed in the many mundane footsteps is Bel Ami. Directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, this film at first glance seemed noteworthy. The cast alone is beautiful enough to be arrested with attention, yet the film does not give the viewer enough to stay focused on. The pace is slow and the story line is even more of a disappointment.
Released earlier in the year, Bel Ami tells the story of a young man named Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) who moved to Paris in hopes of making his fortune. As the ex-British military man begins his journey he unexpectedly meets an old acquaintance, Charles Forestier (Phillip Glenister), who gives the young man a break by allowing him to write an article for his newspaper. With this new chance for success, Georges Duroy begins his rise to power in the great city of Paris. The only thing holding him back is himself. His seductive demeanor and good looks allow him to manipulate the city’s most influential and wealthy women, ultimately gaining power for himself and destroying the relationships of those around him.
The Setting and Costumes
Although the feature is rather mundane there is beauty found within the strips that can be categorized as brilliant. The setting and costume design for Bel Ami was absolutely fantastic. With everything else being a let down, it was refreshing to see what the set decorator, Anna Lynch-Robinson, and the costume designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux, had in store for this premier. Although the film feels overstuffed at times it always looks brilliant. It seemed as though the story was trying to compete with the setting, but failed tremendously. The setting attributes were perfect to make this film what it should have been, an emotionally compelling melodrama, rather it was the opposite, a huge bore.
The music embraced the atmosphere given off from the setting and costumes. It matched the vibe of Paris — a strong juxtaposition of emotions from highs to lows and all in between. The composers, Lakshman Joseph De Saram and Oscar winner Rachel Portman, created the brilliant score to cover what most of the storyline could not. The entire score is orchestral with a strong emphasis on strings. The passion and emotions, absent from the scenes and character interaction, was revealed through music — one of the few elements that kept my attention throughout Bel Ami. The beautiful story of what this film should have showcased comes to life in the soundtrack. If you are an orchestral music lover or simply an adement listener of music, take a look into the Bel Ami soundtrack.
The film did have a fairly good cast with feature worthy stars such as Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman (Madeleine Forestier), and Christina Ricci (Clotilde de Marelle). Although they have all made their marks with popular films or TV shows, the Bel Ami cast did simply just okay. Pattinson seemed a little stiff throughout the film, mainly capturing the camera’s attention with his charming looks rather than his acting skills. By all means he did not do a bad job though he did not do a great job, he was simply okay. Clearly he is trying to escape the world of Twilight with character roles such as Georges Duroy. I do have hope however, and soon enough I believe he will be a well-rounded actor with the ability to arrest audiences with this type of role, just not yet.
Uma Thurman, as usual, handled her character with incredible believability. Although she was great overall her role was nothing special and unfortunately blended into the rest of the film. Christina Ricci was the same story; her presence wasn’t as strong I would have hoped. For a period piece with nothing outstanding being brought to the table, these three actors and actresses should have given a better performance. Unfortunately that step did not come.
Is there anything interesting?
The whole movie is rather boring. Due to the storyline’s lack of detail and concision Bel Ami leaves an unmemorable impression. The film has an R rating only because of the slight nudity subtly shown throughout. If it were not for this the film would without a doubt be PG-13.
Bel Ami showed potential at first with the introduction of its cast and their characters. On paper the cast is phenomenal, yet the main characters fall short of hitting a memorable mark. Unfortunately the story line brought even less excitement to the feature — a lifeless ride of the Hollywood mundane.
Overall, the film was a let down. Besides the brilliant costumes, settings, and musical score Bel Ami did nothing to stand out amongst a world of similars. The film should have focused on capturing something unique and it simply did not. Honestly, I did not go into the film with the greatest of expectations as the trailers revealed nothing special, and fortunately for this I was not let down when the film was indeed a bust. If you are looking for a film to pass the time, sure Bel Ami can do this, but you may end up more bored than before. There will be nothing special to make it memorable nor worthy of repeat watches. On the other hand if old time Paris is something you enjoy greatly or music is your desire then the setting, costumes, and score alone will be enough.