Robert Pattinson gets an A for effort. Eager to break out of his sparkly vampire shell, he’s attempting a respectable career with a more natural skin tone. Though “Bel Ami” doesn’t break any new ground, it’s a step forward for teenage America’s favorite immortal heartthrob.
Pattinson’s Georges Duroy is a poor former soldier who sets out to conquer turn-of-the-century Paris by seducing its most beautiful women. The fact that said women are married is the whole point – their husbands are powerful and wealthy, ideal stepping stones. Though Duroy may have real feelings for young mother Clotilde (Christina Ricci), he has no such affection for eventual spouse Madeleine (Uma Thurman) and the mature Madame Walter (Kristin Scott Thomas). Does Georges have a heart under all this calculation? It’s hard to tell.
With “Bel Ami”, what you see is what you get. Ripped bodices, hushed tones and dramatic gestures: no more, no less. Ricci is exquisite, her petite but powerful presence begging the question: why isn’t she in more movies? Thurman and Scott Thomas appear to be having a good time, and Pattinson makes a valiant effort. His talent is present but mostly unformed: he requires excellent direction at this point in his career (I eagerly await his performance in David Cronenberg’s upcoming project, “Cosmopolis”). “Bel Ami” isn’t anything surprising, but the film’s game cast (and a few gratuitous shots of Pattinson’s derriere) make it a worthy rental.