Genre: Period Drama
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, Kristen Scott-Thomas, Colm Meaney and Phillip Glenister.
Running Time: 102 mins. approx.
Seen At: Didsbury.
On: Saturday, 10th March, 2012.
Having already obtained a massive following, and achieved a definite ‘heartthrob’ status with teenage girls the world over, thanks to the phenomenal success of the Twilight saga, Robert Pattinson changes tone completely with his latest project. So much so, that the presumed intended audience of those same teenagers, may be somewhat put off by this much more mature, strictly adult material.
Set in 1890’s Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, a time of revolutionary change, young Georges Duroy, arrives in the French capital with a view to making his first fortune. He starts writing for a local newspaper office, thanks to being employed by the spiky Mr. Forestier (Philip Glenister). While at a party, he catches the eye of Forestier’s wife Madeleine (a huskily-toned Uma Thurman), along with two other of the committee members wives Clotilde (Christina Ricci), and Virginie (Kristen Scott-Thomas)…
What ensues is a dark, witty, dangerous, biting satire on sexual politics and the struggle of gender in social stature. Extremely steamy shenanigans are abound for our surly, pensive antagonist, as he embarks upon suitably saucy affairs with all three women! Cue plenty of horse-drawn carriages, scantily-clad vixens, tense dinners at tables and buxom cleavages.
Although of course, it’s clear from the outset that for Georges these lustful escapades serve only the function of quenching his insatiable thirst for power…
This is an absolutely brilliant, fascinating study and insight into the social, hierarchical values present at the time, displaying how attitudes often changed between the ‘sexes’. At one point, the film inclines to suggest that it is women who had a certain dominance over men, before the pendulum of opinion occasionally swings back into the men’s favour, to establish a fair balance. Dramatically gripping, it is not only the relationships that are addressed in the narrative, but also more traditionally political and even topical issues, such as the thread concerning the financial future of Argentina. This film can be likened to several others, such as 1999’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s wonderfully witty An Ideal Husband, or most obviously, Stephen Frears’s 1988 melting-pot of scandal and seduction, Dangerous Liaisons, with John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer. But if that could colloquially be described as a love-triangle – then this is more of the quadruple variety, as our slimy suitor finds himself canoodling with three beautiful women.
The performances are fantastic, particularly from the three actresses. Uma Thurman provides Madeleine with the perfect amount of crazed passion, being both sophisticated and malicious by turns. The encounter closest to actual romance or even love, occurs with Clotilde, the most gentle and likable of the three temptresses, beautifully played by former child-star Christina Ricci. Clotilde is as opportunistic as she is vulnerable, in a heartbreakingly wonderful performance from her. The always magnificent Kristen Scott-Thomas is the one that really stands out though, as Madame Virginie Rousset, a character she expertly underplays so subtlety, until the explosive fallout, when the consequences of all the infidelities reach a shocking dénouement with an array of verbal fireworks.
The only performance that’s a little less impressive is Robert Pattinson in the role of Georges. He’s impressive at times, but there are frequent scenes where, he’s doing little else apart from looking ominous, without enough reasoning or foundation as to exactly why this character is the way he is.
The attention to period detail is exquisite. It’s a great testament to the production design that the film was actually shot in Budapest and London, and yet it’s set entirely in Paris. The costumes, especially the dresses, are colourful, intricate and richly textured. One of the most outstanding elements is the unrelenting, tension-filled score, full of excitedly droning violins that really emphasize the suspense.
Even though it’s a period piece, the issues it raises such as gender, unrequited love and the class-divide, all feel very contemporary, almost modern.
This film’s received a much underrated reception – it’s exceptionally acted, riveting and compelling to watch.
Rating: * * * *