Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Scowls and Smirks: 'Bel Ami' Is the Latest Proof That Robert Pattinson Needs a New Career Plan

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire June 5, 2012 at 11:50AM

Robert Pattinson was cast in the biggest role of his burgeoning career not as an actor but an object of lust. The "Twilight" movies, which conclude with the final adaptation of Stephanie Meyers' vampiric book series this fall, fit Pattinson so perfectly as immortal hottie Edward Cullen that the franchise made him a star even before the release of the first installment. With a performance style exclusively composed of sullen glances and distant sighs, Pattinson was Meyer's lascivious prose incarnate. As "Twilight" comes to an end, however, Pattinson's wooden schtick has started to tread water, with "Bel Ami" opening this week to provide the latest example. Having achieved global celebrity at such an early stage in his career, Pattinson's apparent interest in more mature dramatic material deserves some rudimentary appreciation, but "Bel Ami" never provides him with the opportunity to develop his range. A stilted adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel about a young British entrepreneur making his way to the top of a Paris-based aristocracy by sleeping around, directors Declan Dennellan and Nick Ormerod complement the most rudimentary aspects of Pattinson's lifeless screen presence. Pattinson portrays the monotonous Georges Duroy in two equally dry modes: scowls and smirks. In town straight out of military experiences in Algeria, he gets right to work infiltrating the richest local scene, tracking down former soldier pal Charles (Philip Glenister) and promptly wooing every woman among his close circle of friends. These include young Clotilde (Christina Ricci, who at least appears to be enjoying the basic screenplay commands to flutter her eyelashes), one of several married women Georges proceeds to bed with the promise of something more. Ultimately, he sets his sights on Charles' wife, the worldly Madeleine (Uma Thurman), who detects the young man's self-serving agenda but plays along anyway. Nevertheless, the real focus is Georges' ability to use sexual prowess to attain power, and it does so without a modicum of depth or insight into the character's operating motives or how the mores of the period sustain his greed. Instead, Pattinson lurks through one mannered scene after another, his eyes locked in position like dark marbles even when in the throes of an onscreen orgasm. This is a unique moment to investigate the boundaries of Pattinson's abilities. Just two weeks ago, his leading role in David Cronenberg's equally morbid "Cosmopolis" was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival. While Cronenberg's adaptation of Don Delillo's novella has a sharper, more incisive script, littered with sly capitalist indictments, it asks little of Pattinson in much the same manner as "Twilight" and its sequels. As with those movies, the Pattinson character serves to reflect the ideas and attitudes of those around him. The root problem goes back to the origins of Pattinson's fame, a trajectory oddly mirrored by the plot of "Bel Ami." Through no qualifications other than his social affiliations and good luck, Georges lands a gig as a newspaper journalist and promptly finds himself under fire for his nonexistent writing skills. Thrust into the limelight, Pattinson has similarly found a gateway to ambitious projects without proving his performative value. There's no doubting his legitimate urge to improve. The actor has expressed interest in working with Todd Solondz, whose tender character study "Dark Horse" opens this week. Looking at "Dark Horse," it's hard to imagine swapping the schlubby lead Jordan Gelber, who plays a grown bachelor still living with his demanding parents, for the expressionless Pattinson. To date, he simply gives no impression of any emotional complexities beneath the surface of his immaculate features. Attempting to play aggressive charmers, Pattinson has said he takes his inspiration from that requisite archetype for soulful tough guys, James Dean. To grow as an actor, however, he must push beyond that mold and recreate his image with a different kind of challenge. Clearly, he's an actor with understatement on his side; perhaps Keanu Reeves' career path could lead him in a more fruitful direction. For now, he's just a cold face. Both "Cosmopolis" and "Bel Ami" end with close-ups of Pattinson's dreary stare. After the final "Twilight" movie hits theaters this fall, he will need to find somewhere meaningful to focus his gaze. Unlike Edward Cullen, acting careers don't live forever.
15
Robert Pattinson looking characteristically dreary in 'Bel Ami.'
Robert Pattinson looking characteristically dreary in 'Bel Ami.'

Robert Pattinson was cast in the biggest role of his burgeoning career not as an actor but an object of lust. The "Twilight" movies, which conclude with the final adaptation of Stephanie Meyers' vampiric book series this fall, fit Pattinson so perfectly as immortal hottie Edward Cullen that the franchise made him a star even before the release of the first installment. With a performance style exclusively composed of sullen glances and distant sighs, Pattinson was Meyer's lascivious prose incarnate. As "Twilight" comes to an end, however, Pattinson's wooden schtick has started to tread water, with "Bel Ami" opening this week to provide the latest example.

Having achieved global celebrity at such an early stage in his career, Pattinson's apparent interest in more mature dramatic material deserves some rudimentary appreciation, but "Bel Ami" never provides him with the opportunity to develop his range. A stilted adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel about a young British entrepreneur making his way to the top of a Paris-based aristocracy by sleeping around, directors Declan Dennellan and Nick Ormerod complement the most rudimentary aspects of Pattinson's lifeless screen presence. Pattinson portrays the monotonous Georges Duroy in two equally dry modes: scowls and smirks.

In town straight out of military experiences in Algeria, he gets right to work infiltrating the richest local scene, tracking down former soldier pal Charles (Philip Glenister) and promptly wooing every woman among his close circle of friends. These include young Clotilde (Christina Ricci, who at least appears to be enjoying the basic screenplay commands to flutter her eyelashes), one of several married women Georges proceeds to bed with the promise of something more. Ultimately, he sets his sights on Charles' wife, the worldly Madeleine (Uma Thurman), who detects the young man's self-serving agenda but plays along anyway.

Nevertheless, the real focus is Georges' ability to use sexual prowess to attain power, and it does so without a modicum of depth or insight into the character's operating motives or how the mores of the period sustain his greed. Instead, Pattinson lurks through one mannered scene after another, his eyes locked in position like dark marbles even when in the throes of an onscreen orgasm.

This is a unique moment to investigate the boundaries of Pattinson's abilities. Just two weeks ago, his leading role in David Cronenberg's equally morbid "Cosmopolis" was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival. While Cronenberg's adaptation of Don Delillo's novella has a sharper, more incisive script, littered with sly capitalist indictments, it asks little of Pattinson in much the same manner as "Twilight" and its sequels. As with those movies, the Pattinson character serves to reflect the ideas and attitudes of those around him.

The root problem goes back to the origins of Pattinson's fame, a trajectory oddly mirrored by the plot of "Bel Ami." Through no qualifications other than his social affiliations and good luck, Georges lands a gig as a newspaper journalist and promptly finds himself under fire for his nonexistent writing skills. Thrust into the limelight, Pattinson has similarly found a gateway to ambitious projects without proving his performative value.

There's no doubting his legitimate urge to improve. The actor has expressed interest in working with Todd Solondz, whose tender character study "Dark Horse" opens this week. Looking at "Dark Horse," it's hard to imagine swapping the schlubby lead Jordan Gelber, who plays a grown bachelor still living with his demanding parents, for the expressionless Pattinson. To date, he simply gives no impression of any emotional complexities beneath the surface of his immaculate features.

Attempting to play aggressive charmers, Pattinson has said he takes his inspiration from that requisite archetype for soulful tough guys, James Dean. To grow as an actor, however, he must push beyond that mold and recreate his image with a different kind of challenge. Clearly, he's an actor with understatement on his side; perhaps Keanu Reeves' career path could lead him in a more fruitful direction. For now, he's just a cold face. Both "Cosmopolis" and "Bel Ami" end with close-ups of Pattinson's dreary stare. After the final "Twilight" movie hits theaters this fall, he will need to find somewhere meaningful to focus his gaze. Unlike Edward Cullen, acting careers don't live forever.

Criticwire grade: D

HOW WILL IT PLAY? "Bel Ami" opens in limited release this Friday, and while Pattinson's fame elevate its presence, the movie is unlikely to draw large crowds. However, it has already been released on VOD by Magnolia Pictures and seems well-positioned to perform well there.






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More