Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Director(s): Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod
Cast: Christina Ricci, Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman
Run Time: 102 minutes
Theatrical Release: 06/08/2012
MPAA Rating: R
MPAA Explanation: for some strong sexuality, nudity and brief language
Common Sense Says: Robert Pattinson is bland in sex-filled costume drama.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Twilight star Robert Pattinson further distances himself from the relatively wholesome role of Edward in Bel Ami, a strongly sexual period drama about a social climber who charms and seduces several upper-class women to live a life of luxury. There are many passionate sex scenes, several of which involve nudity (breasts and buttocks are visible). Language includes one "f--k," as well as insults about a character's humble background. Violence is relatively mild, but there's one fist fight and one disturbing scene when a man bloodily succumbs to consumption. Bel Ami isn't a film with positive messages or role models, but it could provoke interesting conversations about class, power, and sex.
- Families can talk about Bel Ami's issues of class and gender. How were they the two determining factors to a person's prospects in 19th-century French society?
- Pattinson has a worldwide following for playing a particular character. Is it difficult to see him in such a different role?
- Parents and teens can discuss how the movie depicts marriage. Was any couple in the movie happily married? Do you think adultery was dealt with too casually?
What's the story?
Based on French author Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel, BEL AMI follows the rising fortune of Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson), a former soldier whose chance encounter with an old comrade changes his life. After reconnecting with the upper-class Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister), Georges meets and charms Madame Forestier (Uma Thurman) and her circle of well-heeled friends, including the lonely Clotilde (Christina Ricci), who nearly immediately takes Georges as a lover, and Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas), the wife of a newspaper publisher (Colm Meaney) who hires Georges as a columnist. As Georges gets more and more accustomed to his life of comfort, he's willing to manipulate, betray, and seduce anyone to sustain his lifestyle.
Is it any good?
Pattinson has had a phenomenal amount of success based solely on one movie role -- Edward Cullen in the Twilight saga. But it's obvious that his true interests lie in making much smaller, character-driven movies instead of popular commercial ones. That kind of dedication to the craft of acting should be applauded, but the problem is that, for all of his good looks and eccentric tastes in film roles, Pattinson isn't quite up to the task most of the time, and it's clearest in this adaptation.Even surrounded by fantastic actresses (Thurman, Ricci, and Thomas all do their best with the material and look fabulous in their corseted finerie) and meticulously crafted Parisian interiors, Pattinson falls flat as a man who's so charismatic and irresistible that women flock to him and are willing to commit adultery to be with him. As played by Pattinson, Georges lacks the magnetism and just seems like a petulant young man who alternately whines, schemes, and sleeps with women. Pattinson is uncompelling, which dooms the story, since it hinges on the fact he's a gigolo who's able to seduce pretty much any woman who enters his plane of vision.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Bel Ami is filled with negative messages about class, fortune, marriage, and sexual relationships. The over-arching theme is that people born into money take it for granted, and those who have to work for their pennies (or francs as the case may be) will stop at nothing to keep their riches.
Role Models: The women in the movie come off far better than the men. Clotilde, although in an unhappy marriage, is a loving mother and selfless in her interactions with Georges. She truly loves him despite his many flaws. Madeleine is a progressive intellectual who believes in women's equality. As for the Rousset ladies, they're very naive and easily swayed by Georges' charm. And Georges himself is a scoundrel who chooses money over love and friendship.
What to watch out for
Violence Georges gets into a fight at a brothel/gambling hall, and one man dies from consumption in a bloody manner.
Sex: From the opening sequence, when Georges flirts with and eventually solicits a prostitute, Bel Ami is highly sexual. Nudity includes breasts, backs, butts, and basically everything except full-frontal genitalia shots. There are more than a half-dozen sex scenes, which range from semi-clothed romps to explicit depictions of lovemaking. Georges is a 19th-century gigolo and is depicted as irresistible to the wealthy women in Madeleine's social circle.
Language: One "f--k," plus insults like "whore," "idiot," and other derogatory terms.
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Several characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era), and there's a lot of drinking at the brothel and at every social gathering.