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LIZ SMITH: A John Edwards Comeback? ...

A John Edwards Comeback? He's Got to Be Kidding. (Please, Let Him Be Kidding!)
Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas Overwhelm Robert Pattinson in "Bel Ami."
by Liz Smith
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

“SAY SOMETHING funny!” said a reporter to Noel Coward.

He responded: “Kangaroo!”

“But you’re a star,” said the woman. Say something!"

Noel Coward: “Twinkle—twinkle!”
LIZ THOUGHTS: I hoped John Edwards wouldn’t go to jail so I am satisfied with the North Carolina jury’s limited decision that he didn’t take Bunny Mellon’s money for any political reason. (Mrs. Mellon paid the gift tax on the money she gave him.)

This horrible, perfectly awful man — who had the nerve to run for president while cheating on his dying wife and trying to cheat on voters who might have elected him — has four children. He has long-suffering parents. They have all endured enough from his behavior and it is better for them to have him free, to make amends.  

But a return to public life? Is he cartooning?
WHILE writing of that interesting mess of a movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, I expected it to be a hit. And it is. There is, after all, Charlize Theron and who could resist going to see her after those reviews?

And I remember that, while sitting through its excruciating excesses, I was wondering where in the hell they found such dismal places?

Well, some were created at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Also near there at Burnham Beeches ... others at Frensham Ponds in Surrey ... then some at Marloes Sands in Wales. And a few in the U.S.A. but there’s no indication where.
Map of Pinewood Studios.
SPEAKING OF interesting messes of movies ...

Any minute now Magnolia Pictures will release Bel Ami starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas. It is based on Guy de Maupassant’s then-shocking 1885 novel about Georges Duroy, a talentless opportunist who uses his charm to worm his way into the literary and social world of Paris — mostly through his success with women. He is a cad.

Now, if you think Mr. Pattinson looks miserable as the teenage vampire of the Twilight films, wait till you see him mope, wince and weep his way through Bel Ami.   He is a cad, but one who is obviously off his meds. He is a rank opportunist and a self-pitying victim. Maybe this is the truth of de Maupassant’s Duroy. I am not familiar with the source material. Bel Ami was not required reading in Austin, during my college years. It was probably banned!

And then there is the matter of Pattinson’s appearance. When the movie starts out, he’s starving in a garret someplace, with only a few cockroaches for friends. So, his pale, unshaven, red-eyed countenance is understandable. 

But even after his character — nicknamed “Bel Ami” by his besotted ladies — has moved up in the world, Pattinson still looks damp, pallid and unsavory. Of course, this is France in the 1800s. Were we to travel back in time, for sure we’d find most everybody rather “unsavory.” Perhaps Mr. Pattinson and directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod were going for realism? 

Mr. Pattinson is not the world’s worst actor, and his performance probably suffers because the film seems rather rushed. (We don’t get to know much about Georges Duroy, although we do know, because he says it, “It is not enough to be loved!”)

Also, and this is even more of a pronounced problem, Pattinson plays almost all his scenes with three of the most charismatic and talented actresses around — the above mentioned Uma, Christina and Kristin. We are all too familiar with Pattinson’s interactions with his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, who is not exactly a wildly challenging performer. (Well, it might be a challenge to get her to change her expression!)
Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman.
The women make this movie. In fact, they make the movie well worth seeing! Miss Thurman plays Pattinson’s initial patroness, a wildly independent creature who announces upon their first encounter: “I will not be your mistress!” Along with “I am not like other women. I will not accept authority!” The gangly/graceful, beautiful/odd-looking Uma is fascinating, as usual. She is too modern for costume pieces, yet she is also, perversely, just right. She is confounding, chameleon-like.

Christina Ricci is the woman who truly loves Bel Ami, but cannot help him rise. She is truly touching, with her sweetheart face and enormous eyes. And, she is astonishingly youthful-looking. I don’t know Christina’s actual age — she did begin as a child actress — but she has managed to preserve the flesh of juicy adolescence. She doesn’t look a day older than she did in her breakout film, 1998’s The Opposite of Sex. But now she is much more beautiful.
Robert Pattinson and Christina Ricci.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays the elegant, modest matron swept away by the irresistible Bel Ami. She ends up forfeiting much more than she bargained for. Also on hand, in a small but pivotal, role is Holliday Grainger as the high-born girl who is ripe for plucking — and marriage. TV viewers know her as the increasingly cynical Lucrezia of Showtime’s The Borgias.

These women are all terrific. And the film looks wonderful, unlike the last period piece I saw. That was The Raven, which had the appearance of having been filmed by the SyFy Channel for $15 bucks.
Robert Pattinson and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Because of these “Bel Ami” ladies, I can’t in good conscience say, “stay away!” And despite my reservations, I’m not sure about Mr. Pattinson. I think he is trying very hard. Too complex a character at this point in his career? Or a complex character not fleshed-out enough in the screenplay? 

I have spent worse times at the movies, especially since Bel Ami runs only 102 minutes.  And just to prove that differing opinions make the world go around, Bel Ami was an official selection at the Berlin Film Festival this year.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com