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Let's Ask Again: Can Robert Pattinson Act?

by Caryn James
June 6, 2012 9:02 AM
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Robert Pattinson has made some daring artistic choices apart from his most famous, pasty-faced role; too bad so many of those fillms have been clunkers.

He played the young Salvador Dali in Little Ashes, a pre-Twilight film so badly written it left open the question of whether Pattinson could really act. He played the doomed young lover in the icky, maudlin Remember Me (2010), which grafts a contemporary Romeo and Juliet plot onto a 9-11 drama; not his most inspired choice, but at least he was reaching for something serious again. And if Reese Witherspoon and circus animals couldn’t save the snoozefest that was Water for Elephants, you can’t hold Pattinson responsible for that one either.

So we’re still wondering if he can act in strong sunlight and  -- uh-oh --  along comes Bel Ami, a predictably pretty, unexpectedly moribund drama.  

In this 19th-century costume romance, based on a Guy de Maupassant story, Pattinson plays Georges Duroy, a social climbing young man totally without talent except for his good looks. He’s a natural-born gigolo, just back from war, who weasels his way into the dining rooms and then boudoirs of some of Parisian society’s most desirable married women, played by a starry cast.

They include Uma Thurman as Madeleine, the wealthy, powerful wife of a newspaper editor who hires Georges. Madeleine dictates George’s articles and makes him look much smarter than he is (not so hard to do). She also prods him into a serious fling with her best friend, Clothilde (Christina Ricci). And he pursues then dumps the proper but secretly passionate Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Here is a story about lust, infidelity, jealousy, manipulation, about sex as commodity and weapon. Done right, it should suggest the dark, thrilling tones of Dangerous Liaisons. But Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod co-direct with a stateliness that totally negates the film’s messy, sexy theme. Even the bedroom scenes feel like they were shot in the decorative arts galleries of the Louvre, with museum guards off camera making sure the situation stays calm.   

And I hate to say this, but Pattison is just as robotic and vapid as the direction. Georges' humiliating rejection of Virginie almost makes him a real character – mean-spirited, cruel and petty, but with a believable spark. But that comes far too late to save the film.

Pattinson’s fault? Not entirely, of course. But the answer to the “Can he really act?” question is not looking hopeful for him. Word out of Cannes about his next film, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, isn’t encouraging. Good thing he’ll always have fangs to fall back on.  

Bel Ami is on VOD now and in theaters on Friday. Here's the trailer, which makes the film look much livelier than it is.

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  • Mol | July 27, 2012 12:38 PMReply


  • Stuart | June 10, 2012 9:32 AMReply

    This actor has had God knows how many years to get in the saddle and work his shit out, so he should be able to act. Having seen Cosmopolis, I can vouch that he can. Is he the second coming? Probably not.

  • Stuart | June 10, 2012 11:54 AM


    I read that article. It wasn't really a review of Pattinson work, more a collation of reviews.

  • Earth to Caryn James | June 10, 2012 4:48 AMReply

    "Word out of Cannes about his next film, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, isn’t encouraging" Caryn, if you're going to do absolutely no research before writing an article, just tell us and we can all go back to reading THR - or EW.

    You know perfectly well your statement about Cannes is cobblers. Around 75-80% of critics said Pattinson excels as Packer, two of them - Indiewire writers! Those complaining about the film (inevitable with Cronenberg) have complained about the film itself, not its lead actor. If I managed to find the link below, I don't see why you didn't.

  • P.Matthews | June 9, 2012 7:58 AMReply

    Lets be clear: Twilight aside, because lets face it Meyer has a lot to answer for, Pattinson has never said he's De Niro. What he has said is that he's a work in progress.

    So: "Remember Me", interesting but limp; "Water For Elephants", just OK; "Bel Ami", stank - but take a look at the first-timers on direction before assigning blame - then, "Cosmopolis".

    Pattinson nailed it. Period.

  • vanessa | June 7, 2012 2:21 PMReply

    To say that the word out of Cannes for Robert Pattinson is not encouraging is a straight lie. 80% of the reviews at Cannes for Cosmopolis were very positive for Rob, even some said that Rob was better than the movie itself.
    The movie got mixed reviews but Rob generally got excellent notices. So get your facts right and be fair and just and not partisan. Even critics who write for your site gave good reviews to the movie and to Rob. So maybe you should read what is on your site.

  • Mi | June 6, 2012 5:53 PMReply

    You have a bad informations about Cosmopolis.The current scores of over 40 Cannes critics for Cosmopolis : 7:49.

  • kay | June 6, 2012 5:35 PMReply

    Pattinson got some really great reviews for his performance in Cosmopolis tho. In fact some reviewers liked him even more than the film itself.

  • felicity | June 6, 2012 2:17 PMReply

    Pattinson and Stewart: are they related to Keanu Reeves in some extent? Are they his illegimate children?

  • valery | June 6, 2012 2:13 PMReply

    Some brit bloggers and critics gave this crap a fresh review LMAO. They also gave that mediocre The King's Speech 4 stars (The Guardian). They are really insecure aren't they? Probably they are also desperately campaigning for 'Pattinson is a good actor' twihard crapfest. Only them liked him in that idiotic and shallow Cosmopolis but the truth is surfacing now. He has no future as actor whatsoever and so does the mediocre and bad films coming from UK.

  • KS | June 6, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    You really dont understand the European classics, americans.

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