Flick of the Week: Bel Ami

Bel Ami As the social-climbing Georges Duroy—nicknamed Bel Ami—Robert Pattinson is an appropriately smug cad in this handsome adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s masterful source novel. Pattinson looks good in—and out of—period costume. (Yes Twi-hard fans, he’s got a brief nude scene seven minutes in; not that anyone’s counting).

Set in 1890 Paris, George is a poor young man who lacks manners—he doesn’t know which knife to use at the dinner table—as well as connections. But he has looks and charm, and that is enough to enchant three married women who help him: Clothide (Christina Ricci), who cheats on her husband with him; Madeline (Uma Thurman), the smart wife of his section editor who inspires him; and Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas), the powerful and wealthy wife of the newspaper’s editor who falls for him. What makes the Georges such a wonderfully devious hero is not the way he gets sex, smarts, and money though sometimes false kindness to these ladies, but how he falls up when he screws up. The dramatic tension rests on Georges always on the brink of his come-uppance. Pattinson acquits himself surprisingly well in the role; whenever he checks himself out in a mirror it’s a telling moment about his self-confidence. Ricci and Thurman are both well suited to their roles, and the relationships he has with each of them are juicy. Alas, when Scott Thomas’s character overtakes the narrative at the midpoint, she is quite grating.

Bel Ami sags a bit before the satisfying finale. The musical score also tends to be a bit aggressive at times, but the costumes and art directions are all very pretty. Though viewers crushed on Pattinson may not make much of an effort to notice.

Also Opening

Madagascar 3 The quartet of zoo animals try to find their way home via the circus in this animated three-quel, starring the vocal talents of Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock and David Schwimmer.

Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson’s fable about two young kids in love who run away on a small island in 1960s New England. Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand co-star.

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding Jane Fonda is hippie-but-not-dippy mother to yuppie lawyer Catherine Keener in this dysfunctional family comedy-drama set in the Catskills.

Prometheus Before there was Alien and Aliens and Alien3 there was Prometheus. But this film is just coming out now. Noomi Rapace stars.

Ultrasonic An indie films about a musician who can hear a sound not on other people’s frequency.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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