Bel Ami, based on a Guy de Maupassant novel, marks the feature debut of directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod. The quality of the sets, costumes and cast belies the relatively small budget; Budapest replaces Paris – so, no Eiffel Tower or Moulin Rouge in sight. As the social-climbing George Duroy, Robert Pattinson is expected to carry the film, featuring in every scene.
He undoubtedly looks the part but his determination to be taken seriously as an actor, while admirable, is evident too often, to the detriment of the film's authenticity. The more experienced actresses, particularly doe-eyed Christina Ricci, frequently steal the scenes they share with their leading man. Yet the biggest problem here is the utter lack of passion. As George beds woman after woman, with the specific intent of moving up the social ladder, the seduction is non-existent. So too is the hedonism and debauchery of Paris in the 1890s. George is a hollow character, but it is a shame that the film is too.