Social climbing has always been a subject of speculation in fiction. People try to ascend in the society because they desire money, fame and a more interesting lifestyle. But many lose themselves on the way and instead of happiness find despair.
Bel Ami is a screen adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel of the same title.
A young and poor ex-soldier named Georges Duroy arrives in Paris and finds employment by serendipity: he meets a friend who is well to do and works for a top newspaper.
Soon we see that young Georges is talentless in journalism but he tries to compensate it by seducing influential women.
Here is the Achilles’s foot of Parisian bohemia. Sophisticated men and women have their weakness and the greatest one is sexual instinct. Georges knows that and he manipulates rich women who are smitten by him to secure his future. The bohemia follows a social code in their actions, but Georges is a savage, he’s not from that circle and after learning the high society rules, he uses them to achieve his goals.
The cast is solid – Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas. The script seems a little oversimplified, but this way it is a lot more accessible and the audience can pay full attention to relationships between the characters. Pattinson overplays Georges’ despair and pride, things like the excessive sweating and regular tremor of the facial muscles, which are reminiscent of tuberculosis symptoms, are misleading. Female leads are immaculate, but Ricci’s character is begging for better definition. Score, editing and art direction are well done and pleasantly unobtrusive.
Love and jealousy are the central themes of the film. Georges is in love with a intelligent woman Madeleine (played by Thurman), who can only reciprocate to a certain extent, – she agrees to marry him but demands personal freedom in relationships with other men. He feels humiliated and enraged by her infidelity and makes stupid and rush moves, being unable to control his emotions.
He doesn’t immediately become one of these bohemian people, he just learns how to blend in and make a profit out of it. Not surprisingly his bigger ally is similar to him, – his lover Clotilde is a simple sensual woman, she says at their first encounter that she likes to enjoy things. She’s ideal for him, yet unavailable.
What can you do – if you want to write fiction the reader would be interested in, you need to make your characters suffer.