Bel Ami (2012)

2 Kernels

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci

Type: Movie

 

Bel Ami is a fairly new film I recently watched on Amazon Instant Video. It apparently had a very limited release at the same time in June of 2012, and is schedule to go straight to DVD this August. The movie is pretty much a “Rotten Tomato” on a lot of review sites, and frankly I have to concur. It’s based on the 1885 French novel of the same name by Guy de Maupassant, which I have not read.

There are movies that can be visually stimulating, filled with stunning costumes, big-named stars, and yet sorely lack the basic elements to make it memorable. I think Bel Ami suffers two-fold, in that (1) Robert Pattinson doesn’t carry the central character’s role well enough to make it a noteworthy performance, and (2) the story revolves around a very unlikeable character. The two combined makes it a lethal combination. Perhaps if Duroy would have been cast with a different actor, it may have saved the film. I’m sorry to be so harsh on the heart throb Pattinson, but he just didn’t fit the character’s role other than physical looks.

On the other hand, let’s face it, Duroy is not a character you really fall in love with anyway, if you know anything about the story. Oh, yes, he’s attractive, sexy, dreamy-eyed, able to seduce women with a single sly grin and embodies everything you want in bed from a tender lover to a rough aggressive bad boy–take your pick. He has the stamina of a deer in rut bedding two different women in a matter of mere hours.

You learn the following about his character, besides his inability to keep his manhood in check, that he grew up poor, isn’t very bright, and isn’t respected by other men. You quickly learn that he doesn’t possess much of a conscious or a heart, and uses the lives of others for his own gain. Hence the term “scoundrel” or Bel Ami.

The one thing that struck me about the story is that your not privy to the inward thoughts of Duroy or his motivations. You watch his dark brooding, drunken binges, his narrowing gaze, and outbursts of anger and make your own conclusion as to what makes him tick as a man. Besides being a morally loose rake, with no conscience bedding three women at once, he comes across as a relatively ignorant and despised man in his social circle.

Finally, at the end of the movie, you are suddenly given a glimpse into the deep musings and inward workings of his dark heart. It’s here that he reveals it’s not enough to be loved. He doesn’t want to scrape through life, like his father in poverty, while praying for a better life in the next world. There is no next world. We rot in the grave. Better to grab it in the here and now rather than to hope for something that will never come. Of course, as a scoundrel, that’s the only way he knows how to gain what he wants in life. His final conquest is to marry a woman he doesn’t love (and I seriously doubt the man has the capacity to love), so he can live rich at the hand of her father’s money, who he despises. I probably should take lessons from this sod on how to create a despicable male characters in my next book (though some think I did well with the last one).

Well, like millions of Parisians of that day, he probably would have contracted syphilis anyway and died an early death never able to enjoy his gain. Wealth he would have obtained, but respect and status would never arrive, which frankly are the riches the man really wants but doesn’t realize.

The three ladies he beds are all characters of their own sort. His first wife uses him, as he uses her, and is an adulterer from the very beginning (played brilliantly by Uma Thurman). The second woman (played by Christina Ricci), married as well, loves Duroy in spite of the ass that he is and continues to do so after he marries again for money. The older woman (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), who falls for his charms and is married to his nemesis, he seduces just to sully what the man owns. He doesn’t give a damn about her, and discards her like trash when the deed is done by marrying her daughter instead.

In any event, the movie is a mixed bag because of the story and unlovable character you really don’t want to romp in the sack with at all. Of course, you may just want to watch the movie for eye candy sake, but for mentality sake, there won’t be much else to feed the brain cells.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

4 Kernels

Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, John Madden, Geoffrey Rush, and Ben Affleck

It’s been some time since I’ve watched this movie. I saw it when it originally came out, pretty much went on with life, and recently watched it again. Twelve years ago, I don’t think it impressed me as much as it did the last time I clicked play. It’s obvious that my life’s experiences over the years have changed my view of the movie. Does that ever happen to you?

In spite of the recent controversy stirred by the movie Anonymous over who really wrote the works of Shakespeare, one cannot help but honor the writer of the wonderful words he penned. I do know everyone screamed “foul” when Shakespeare in Love won the Oscar for best picture beating out Private Ryan. Perhaps the voters were in the mood for love, rather than entrails, blood, and gore. If you look at the reviews, you’ll see it’s really one of those love/hate relationships with viewers.

Frankly, I think there is a hidden brilliance behind this movie. It’s about the author who writes a love tragedy, while he lives out his own tragedy with the woman he loves. The affair between William and Viola ensues, and when it does, the well of inspiration Shakespeare thought had gone dry, suddenly springs forth renewed. Their scandalous affair leads to the penning of Romeo and Juliet.

As the story evolves, so does the tragic truth that they will never be together. He is bound by a previous marriage and lives a life of a lowly playwright and poet, while the woman he loves is bound by the Queen’s command and her father to wed another. The stage is set for a love affair that ends in loss and separation. When he realizes how their end will play out, he writes the tragic conclusion to the infamous play. Romeo is a man who cannot live without the woman he loves, much how William feels over his current situation.

When William’s debut of Romeo and Juliet is performed for the first time, by strange circumstances they play the roles — Will as Romeo and Viola as Juliet. Of course, in that day, women couldn’t be on stage, but Viola all along has violated that rule due to her desire to act. Their hearts are torn playing their parts, as they both know their lives will be torn asunder as soon as the play ends. She married that very day. Each are forced to follow another path — two star-crossed lovers unable to have one another. Alas, it was not meant to be.

As far as the stars, I wasn’t enthralled seeing Colin Firth act like a sod. Judy Dench was fine, as usual, in a short role of Queen Elizabeth I. She won the Oscar for best supporting role.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Geoffrey Rush were their usual on film. Gwyneth, for me at least, always seems the same on film, no matter what the role. Nevertheless, she walked away with an Oscar for best actress that year. Cate Blanchett was nominated for her role in Elizabeth, which I thought was far more deserving. :tosses in my two cents:

Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare makes for good eye candy. He plays well the role of the tortured writer, searching for his muse, passionate about life and storytelling. Fiennes’ eyes are very expressive. :tosses in another two cents:

Favorite Lines: (Hugh Fennyman) Who’s that? (Philip Henslowe) Nobody. He’s the author.

(Isn’t that the truth! LOL)

Bramwell (1995-1998)

4 Kernels
The Victorian Way of Life

Stars: Jemma Redgrave and David Calder

Type: British ITV Four Seasons (28 episodes)

Let’s get something out of the way. I love British TV. Seventy percent of what I’ll review has been filmed by the English. It fascinates me. They are great storytellers. Drama is their forte, as well as comedy–hands down.

Twenty-eight episodes later, you’ll be well educated in the Victorian way of life if you tune into Bramwell. I watched it originally on Netflix, but as you know stories come and go there. However, the DVD’s are available on Amazon.

The series is named after its main character, Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a woman physician in 1895. Her father is a doctor, as well, and his daughter has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. However, in 1895, women physicians struggled to be taken seriously by their male peers in the same profession. The series begins in a hospital, where after a heated argument with physician in charge, Eleanor embarks on opening a thrift medical center to treat the poor with the help of a financial supporter. Her father is appalled over the idea.

It’s here in this setting that the series embarks upon a variety of stories revolving around her patients and staff, interspersed with her home and social life in an upper-class environment. The medical cases are crude, such as treating women thought to be too hysterical by removing their ovaries to “calm them down,” to the early methods of surgery without the wearing of masks and sterile conditions. It’s a wonder anyone lived, frankly, through half the medical procedures. Nevertheless, it’s a time of learning and knowledge for the medical profession, even if they are still in the dark ages about some practices.


Overall the series is wonderful portrayal of Victorian life, manners, courtship, class differences, evolution of medical knowledge, and a woman’s place in society. Eleanor Bramwell is a feisty woman, who at times I wish I could knock up side the head. Her character is stubborn, independent, and bull-headed. However, she was born in a time when women were spreading their wings and demanding better treatment. Eleanor, however, is so opinionated in her vie for change, that she thinks she is always right – about everything. On the other hand, her treatment of the poor and attitude toward the sick is her redeeming quality.

Every other character that came and went throughout seasons one through three, were great additions to the story. Eleanor is unmarried, but has a main love interest in her life, another doctor. The man is frankly a scoundrel, as far as I am concerned. Even in all of her self-professed intelligence, Eleanor didn’t have an ounce of sense when it came to men.

Seasons one through three are wonderful. Season four falls flat on its face. Many of the main characters are gone, including her father. My suggestion is skip four, and save yourself the pain. It sorely lacks the brilliance of the first three. Read a synopsis instead to satisfy your curiosity.

If you like the Victorian Era, this is the series for you.

A Dangerous Method (2011)

7489a-dangerous2bmethod1 Kernel

Stars: Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender

R Rated Review

Okay, the disclaimer is up. It’s a shocking movie. If you’re a psychologist buff who has studied the works of Jung and Freud, this movie could be your cup of tea. If you’re an individual who has been beaten and sexually abused, hide the play button. It could resurrect repressed memories you had hoped to forget. Watch at your own risk. On the other hand, if you read Fifty Shades of Grey and liked it, this movie could be right up your alley.

This movie is supposedly based on a true story. Enters Sabina Spielrein – painfully played by Keira Knightly, I might add. She arrives at the mental institution, Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) is her doctor. He sits in a chair behind her and starts to embark on the method of psychoanalyzing a disturbed woman. Sabina contorts into all sorts of physical language from her face to her toes, and confesses to her doctor that she’s been abused, beaten, and likes it. In today’s language that would be translated into kinky sex. She enjoys being naked, tied up, and beaten as a result of what her father did to her as a child.

As her treatment progresses, Carl meets his idol, Sigmond, and they discuss her case. However, Sabina, as she becomes more stable, entices her doctor into a relationship. Married and about to commit professional suicide, Jung has an affair with her anyway. If that isn’t bad enough, he satisfies her sexual needs by binding her and beating her with a belt. The act portrayed on screen is far too long on screen, as you watch her contort in pain but enjoy it sexually. The man who is suppose to cure her ends up reinforcing her behavior instead. The outcome is disastrous.

Jung becomes as addicted to her and their affair (even though at one point he tries to break it off), as she is addicted to her behavior. He gives you the impression he loves the dominant male position of spanking her bottom with his belt as much as she loves it at the receiving end. Whether Jung really did go that far in real life is questionable, since he’s well known and revered in his work. From what I’ve read the affair was real, but I’d like to believe the remainder is Hollywood contrived.

The interaction and professional discussions between Jung and Freud are interesting to watch. Surprisingly, Sabina eventually goes on in life to become a psychiatrist herself. Jung helps her achieve that goal. The affair eventually ends, the two part, she marries and finds her own successful career, while Jung wallows in regrets.

Frankly, I had high hopes for this movie, but it turned out rather discouraging and convoluted to watch. The timeline jumps from one period to the next. Scenes happen that make no sense and are followed with no explanation. For example Freud suffers what appears to be a heart attack or stroke in one scene, the next he’s perfectly fine. Huh? The acting on Kiera’s part can only be described as painful to watch earlier in the movie, and bland by others.

Not my cup of tea, especially standing in their bedroom watching drawn out scenes of Sabina tied to the bed and beaten with a belt for sexual arousal. I didn’t count the number of times; I only remember saying to myself, “Enough already, I get the point.”

Refund please.

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