Heads Up: Bel Ami

Fangs away but love still has bite for raunchy R-Pattz

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A film adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel, which follows a young man, Georges Duroy – “Bel Ami” – as he charms and seduces his way to the top of Parisian society.

Elevator Pitch

Fangs away, but the claws come out: R-Pattz is Bel Ami in the Belle Epoque.

Prime Movers

It's the film debut for one of the theatre world's hottest duos: Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, of the multi-Olivier-winning international company Cheek by Jowl. The exec producer is one Simon Fuller, better known as a pop manager and Pop Idol creator.

The Stars

Very starry. Robert Pattinson may be hoping to break from the blessing/curse of Twilight – but as Duroy he'll still get to do plenty of smouldering. Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Holliday Grainger all look brittle, beautiful and distressed as his romantic conquests.

The Early Buzz

Sight & Sound reviewed it thus: "If Bel Ami occasionally feels airless and overly art-directed that may partly reflect the period it's set in, but also the directors' over indulgence in facial close-ups. It's almost as though they didn't trust their actors to express emotions in mid-shot – the last thing you'd expect from theatre directors. This does [Pattinson] no favours, since in close-up his face tends to lapse into the bovine, but at further remove he gives an alert amusedly insinuating performance." Total Film awards "full marks to Pattinson for tearing into his Edward Cullen persona with plenty of arse-bearing sex-scenes", and concludes it's a "lush period romp ... but a toothless adaptation of biting source material".

Insider Knowledge

Bel Ami has been adapted for film and TV at least nine times before; most famously in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947, starring George Sanders and Angela Lansbury, when it was given a moral he-gets-what-he-deserves ending, quite at odds with the source material, by Hollywood censors.

It's great that...

There's no such rewrites here: wickedness remains wickedly profitable.

It's a shame that...

The classic French novel is done in dodgy accented English, not French, despite Donnellan and Ormerod's rich professional history of staging plays in other languages. After all, if they can pull off Shakespeare in Russian....

Hit Potential

The mere presence of R-Pattz should be enough....

The Details

Bel Ami goes on general release from 9 March.