Movie review: Bel Ami

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From the June 21, 2012 edition

I know thousands of women find Robert Pattinson utterly irresistible. Building an entire movie on this fact is not only a poor decision, it’s also fairly insulting.

“Bel Ami” is the tale of Georges Duroy (Pattinson) as he rises to prominence and power in late 19th century Paris by seducing the city’s most influential married women.

After returning from war in Algiers, Duroy scrapes out a meager existence as a clerk. He quickly finds better work after running into a former war comrade who has become a success in the arena of political journalism.

Duroy has no skills as a writer, so he spends his time bedding Clotilde (Christina Ricci) and charming the wives (played by Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas) of other powerful men to make up for his incompetence.

“Bel Ami” offers a strong performance from Ricci, excellent set and costume design, and Pattinson’s naked butt — if you’re into that sort of thing. But that’s far from enough to make up for the film’s shortcomings.

Pattinson’s performance is confounding and manic as he bounces from “Twilight”-esque brooding to being a smarmy predator. While Pattinson is problematic, the script is worse; the attempt to make Duroy into a complex anti-hero ultimately makes him come off as a petulant pretty boy whose greed and misogyny knows no bounds.