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.