19th century, costume in cinema

Movie Review: Bel Ami (2012)

Hey look at me, doing all this blogging!  I’ve been thinking that I will post costume movie reviews as individual blog posts, and then also cross-post them to the appropriate Costume in Cinema page for posterity.  That way, it creates a bit more content for this here blog, plus allows you to let me know what you thought of the movie (and/or my review).

Bel Ami (2012)

Starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Christina Ricci.  Costumes designed by Odile Dicks-Mireaux.

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Based on an 1880s French novel written by Guy de Maupassant… and if that doesn’t give you an idea of the tone of this movie, then let me summarize late 19th century French literature for you:  the people are pretty, but the emotions are BLEAK and will hammer you over the head with their BLEAKNESS!  My boyfriend Robert Pattinson is Georges Duroy, a poor Algerian vet who climbs the Parisian social ladder by manipulating various women.   Pattinson’s performance is better than you might expect, you Twilight haters, but there’s a bit too much grimacing instead of emoting; the three female leads turn in nice performances, but nothing that made me jump up and down.  It’s unclear just what Duroy’s charm over women is supposed to be, exactly — most men can’t stand him, but when he smile/grimaces at a lady (or brings her a pear?), she just keels over, which never ends up working out too well for her.  The costumes are very pretty and quite accurate — I think the opening title card says it’s 1890, but I could be misremembering — they perfectly capture that transition between late 1880s bustle and 1890s.  Lots of pretty sleeveless evening gowns with that vertical line, hair up on top of the head in that pre-Pompadour (except Thurman, who randomly has hair that is about a decade out of style).  None of the gowns made me jump up and down, but they all looked RIGHT, and that’s saying something!  Also, I kept hoping Pattinson’s brows were going to get shaped up as his lot improved, but no dice.

My rating:  2 (out of 5)

If you like this era, you might also want to check my Victorian costume movie reviews.  I specifically recommend the following late bustle/early 1890s costume films:  An Ideal Husband (1999) and Tipping the Velvet (2002).

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  • Reply Ginger August 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

    You’re right about the costumes – that very late bustle and corset/bustline is so distinctive, and from these pictures they *nailed* it. This has never been a favorite period of mine, but seeing the fashion plates brought to life is fascinating.

  • Reply Andrew August 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    It was set in 1890.

    I thought Robert Pattinson was cringey. He’s becoming the male Keira Knightley. They should do a movie together.

    I freaking loved the costumes so much. I liked that they were stylized but not in some ridiculous/pointless/ugly way. They were sexy.

  • Reply Kiyoshi August 18, 2012 at 4:17 am

    I… don’t know if I think Robert Pattinson should have his hair like that… Victorian slick doesn’t really work or him (in my opinion.) Also, in a somewhat relevant topic, it doesn’t work for Daniel Radcliffe either. (If you can handle creepy/horror, The Woman in Black is what I refer to. Or google it.)
    Anyways, I particularly like the cream tulle gown on the lady in the third picture. But doesn’t it also look like her waist is super-mini? It makes me wonder how much actresses waist-train for period roles. Because Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence also has a massively tiny waist. Then again, I suppose skinny people need to develop curves some way or another, haha!

    • Reply kendra August 19, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Yeah, I kept hating Edward’s Robert’s hair, but then reminding myself it was period appropriate, so I felt I could snark him for it.

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