ROBERT Pattinson hones the mournful pout of his vampire from the Twilight saga in this tepid adaptation of the 19th century novel by Guy de Maupassant.
He dabbles with the dark side once again, playing an amoral journalist who clambers up the social ladder in Belle Epoque Paris by sleeping with neglected wives and daughters of the men who wield power.
It’s another valiant attempt by Pattinson to step away from his signature role as brooding Edward Cullen, but directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod will be hoping that older tween audiences flock to this lustful yarn.
The promise of copious sex and a shirtless male lead should guarantee decent box office returns this weekend, but the lack of palpable eroticism on screen quickly dampens our ardour.
If Bel Ami is hoping to arouse passions like Dangerous Liaisons, it fails, lacking a script laden with tantalising sexual promise or tour-de-force performances from an impressive ensemble cast.
Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) harks from lowly stock and arrives in 1890s Paris with barely two francs to rub together.
He is taken under the wing of friend Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister), who lands the ambitious upstart a position on a newspaper and introduces him to the elegant drawing rooms where his wife Madeleine (Uma Thurman) and friends Virginie Walter (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Clotilde de Marelle (Christina Ricci) hold court.
Dressed in a jacket paid out of Charles’s deep pockets, Georges surmises that if he is to gain a foothold in polite society, he must seduce these women and exploit their influence.
So he hops from one bed to the next, securing opulent lodgings as his underhand scheme reaps rewards.
However, playing with emotions is a perilous business and on more than one occasion, he dismisses one lover in the nick of time before his next “appointment”.
Matters are complicated when Madame Walter’s daughter Suzanne (Holliday Grainger) makes it clear she would like to be plucked by Charles too.
Eventually, the whole sordid truth must come out and tavern wench Rachel (Natalia Tena) is just the woman to knock down Georges’s precarious tower of lies.
Bel Ami is a big tease that fails to deliver when it matters.
Donnellan and Ormerod’s handsomely crafted period piece has heaving bosoms and straining britches aplenty.
However, Pattinson lacks sexual chemistry with any of his co-stars, making a mockery of his anti-hero’s ability to reduce lovers to swooning, gibbering wrecks.
Female co-stars are hampered with two-dimensional roles that squander their abundant talents.
When Georges asks one lover, “Why do you come back to me?” and she responds meekly, “I don’t know”, she speaks for us all.
His bed-hopping liaisons are not remotely dangerous.