Bel Ami has an interesting pedigree. Based on a novel by a classic 19th century French author, and brought to life with sumptuous production values and a marquee cast. The audience observes the social climb of handsome soilder/peasant Georges Duroy, who makes good with some money and nice clothes and soon has women of high standing at his beck and call. Or is he at theirs?
At once I want to compare the intrigue to an Ivory Merchant costume drama, but just saying that makes me realize that term belongs to films a generation old. Bel Ami has chops and if they fall below the previously mentioned IM production the film certainly delivers on a level above Masterpiece Theatre.
There’s a couple of helmers listed on the credits and if anything an actor like Robert Pattinson needs a strong director, since as an actor he’s all about internal gestures. As Duroy advances through employment by the husband of one of his lovers the film takes on political meaning. It seems some powerful men have a lot to gain if the country goes to war in Morocco, and Duroy is writing reportage based on their asides.
Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas star along with Pattinson, with Colm Meaney and Holliday Grainger in support. Bel Ami is rated R but that’s a head scratcher as the flesh on display was brief at best, especially considering what a scoundrel Duroy really turns out to be.
— Michael Bergeron