First Look – 19 Feb 2012 – 20:50, 102 mins
Directed by acclaimed theatre directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod (aka Cheek by Jowl), Bel Ami is a sumptuous adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel about an ex-soldier turned journalist who ascends the social ladder, trading one well-connected wife for another.
More social mountaineer than mere climber – after six months working as a clerk in a Parisian newspaper peasant-born Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) rises to political editor and becomes a valued member of the incestuous Parisian literati. He is soon the object of affection of three influential women: an unlikely mentor (played by Uma Thurman) who helps him to write his first articles; Clotilde (Christina Ricci) who becomes his passionate mistress, and his boss’s wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who becomes an unwitting pawn in his ambitious plans.
Based on de Maupassant’s own journalistic career, Bel Ami is both a portrait of Paris and a turbulent sexual merry-go-round in the style of La Ronde and Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, complete with amoral characters, heightened sexual economics and the triumph of experience over innocence. With a smart cast and a particularly impressive performance by the underrated Pattinson, first time directors Donnellan and Ormerod have fashioned a highly amusing divertissement. – Gráinne Humphreys, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival