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Bel Ami: A Tepid Adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's Novel

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Bel Ami
Directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
Magnolia Pictures
Opens June 8

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What could be hotter than a bed-hopping bodice-ripper in which the movie hunk of the moment plows through three of the sexiest actresses of the 1990s? Most everything, it turns out. This tepid adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's novel tells the story of Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson), an ex-military commoner who becomes a millionaire by bedding and manipulating some of the most influential women of Paris. After making a mistress of Clotilde de Marelle (Christina Ricci), Duroy schemes his way into marrying power broker widower Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman) and turning the churchgoing Virginie Walters (Kirstin Scott Thomas) into a writhe-on-the-floor love slave. But his drive is less about sex than class conquest, a truth that filmmakers Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod honor all too much, giving short shrift to the libidinous magnetism that makes Duroy's ascent possible—carnivorous glances are apparently all it takes. Not helping matters is the vacant Pattinson, who seems hidden behind a mask of his own face, uncertain of what to do with the blessings of his hyperbolic brows and aqua eyes. There's something off and inorganic about the Twilight star's expressions, as if that pretty mug were programmatically hitting marks rather than moving, reacting, emoting. Still, the camera dotes on him, but its the ladies who are worth tracking here, from Ricci's understated sensuality to Thomas's fragile angularity. They've supplemented beauty with good old-fashioned acting chops, something their cover-boy co-star would be wise to emulate.

 
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