David Gritten on film: March 9, 2012

By David Gritten , Friday 9 March 2012

David Gritten, Saga Magazine's film expert, reviews Bel Ami, Trishna, The Help and My Week With Marilyn

David GrittenDavid Gritten

In cinemas

Bel Ami

Robert Pattinson, star of the Twilight films, takes the lead in this version of Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel as Georges Duroy, an ex-soldier who climbs the ladder of Parisian high society by seducing the wives of powerful men.

Duroy is unscrupulous, ambitious and apparently dripping with sexual magnetism, so young Pattinson is involved in bedroom liaisons with a series of older actresses: Kristin Scott-Thomas, Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman.

Still, the film is less than engaging. British stage directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod are making their debuts in film, and their stage background is sometimes apparent: Bel Ami often feels cramped and claustrophobic.

And Pattinson is a problem. He looks too much like a modern young man in a period role; his body language is too casual and informal for the chic social circles of the time.  Despite the story’s topical themes - gossip, the influence of the press and its relationship to government – this is a misfire.

Trishna

British director Michael Winterbottom’s third Thomas Hardy adaptation, Trishna is Tess of the D’Urbervilles, relocated to a vividly-evoked India.

Riz Ahmed plays Jay, the English-educated son of a rich property developer who manages one of his father’s upscale hotels. On a road trip in the area with friends, he meets Trishna (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire), a rural peasant girl, offers her a job and whisks her from poverty to affluence. 

Clouds start gathering over this love story across a class divide; Jay becomes colder to Trishna and things fall apart. Pinto, a genuine beauty, is miscast; she doesn’t look cut out for manual labour. The film looks splendid but lacks a convincing tragic arc; it feels faintly unsatisfying.

DVDs

The Help

Octavia Spencer (middle) with co-stars Emma Stone (left) and Viola Davis (right) in The HelpSet in Civil Rights-era Mississippi and based on Kathryn Stockett’s book-club favourite, its heroines are two black maids who care for the children of wealthy white families.

These kids’ parents are insensitive and disdainful to the maids – but a young white woman (Emma Stone), with ambitions to be a writer, interviews them about their shameful working conditions.

Deeply felt emotions combine with raucous comedy. As the maids, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are utterly riveting. (Available March 12)

My Week with Marilyn

Amiable and charming, this is based on a true story with a fairy-tale quality. Colin Clark, then 23, talked his way into Laurence Olivier’s production company as a lowly gofer on the film The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Olivier and Marilyn Monroe – then enjoyed an idyllic week in a chaste romance with her.

Michelle Williams plays complex, contradictory Monroe admirably. Eddie Redmayne is a likable Colin, and Kenneth Branagh shines as Olivier, perplexed and frustrated by his co-star. Warmly recommended. (Available March 12).

David Gritten

David Gritten has been Saga Magazine’s film critic for eight years. He also regularly writes about and reviews films for the Daily Telegraph. He has lived and worked in London and Los Angeles,  and has visited film sets all over the world. He edited Halliwell’s film guide for two years (2008-09). He feels privileged to have met and interviewed his four major film heroes: Fred Astaire, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodóvar.

Read David Gritten every month in the the Out There section of Saga Magazine - full of unmissable events, book reviews, art, music, special offers and a whole lot more. Find out why we're the UK's best-selling magazine: Subscribe here now.

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