It is not Robert Pattinson's fault, one must remember, that Twilight is dreadful. And it is to his credit that R-Patz (as he is known to anyone under the age of consent) has chosen the literary adaptation Bel Ami as his first post-Twilight film.
Based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant, Bel Ami opens in a fin de siecle Paris ripped straight from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. Whores with red beehives and excessive eyeliner dance the cancan, while the gentry set up rococo love nests with their varied lovers.
Georges Duroy (R-Patz), newly returned from military service in Algeria, wants to be gentrified. So, like an over-keen student, he attempts to seduce the doe-eyed Clotilde by decorating his garret with Chinese lanterns. She responds by renting a fully furnished love nest.
Forestier, an old army buddy of Georges and now editor of a Paris newspaper, offers him a job writing a column about his life in the cavalry. Georges, who has all the literary skill of a peasant-turned-soldier, seeks help from Forestier's wife, Madeleine (Uma Thurman). She writes the column; Georges is deemed a success.
Forestier, meanwhile, spends every scene coughing ominously. "Poor thing," says Clotilde of Madeleine. "She won't be a widow for long." At this point, R-Patz looks profoundly thoughtful. And as though he has caught a whiff of something bad.
In fact - ooh! It's smelling-the-fart acting! Remember that? It was the technique Joey from Friends used when he wanted to signify deep emotional turmoil. Yes. Olivier had classical training; Brando had "method"; R-Patz has smelling the fart.
Anyway, Forestier is still drawing his last breath when Georges proposes to Madeleine. Their marriage allows his career to progress, though Madeleine tends to view the whole set-up as an irritating disruption to her political train of thought: she barely bothers dismounting Georges to examine a map of military manoeuvres in Morocco.
Thurman carries off Madeleine's louche negotiation of a woman's role in society with panache: there is real depth to her character. And there is a glorious turn from Kristin Scott Thomas, who is surely having more fun than anyone else in this film.
And R-Patz? He is trying desperately hard, bless him. As the film progresses, Georges is shown to be increasingly callow, something he pulls off without showing the strain too much. But, as Georges becomes ever-more calculating and heartless in his search for personal gain, Pattinson just falls back on familiar territory: he looks surly and vampiric a lot.
Say what you like about Twilight, it allowed R-Patz to sparkle. Literally: his character turns into a human glitterball in direct sunlight. In Bel Ami, unfortunately, that honour is reserved for the love-nest furniture.