Should I Watch..? 'Bridget Jones' Diary'
January 3rd: What's the Big Deal?
Bridget Jones' Diary is a romantic comedy film released in 2001 and is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Helen Fielding. It is the first of a trilogy of films starring Renée Zellweger as a hopeless single woman torn between two men in her life. The film also stars Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones and was directed by Sharon Maguire. Zellweger's casting proved controversial at the time as the role was seen as being quintessentially English but critics were won over by her performance as well as her English accent. The film proved hugely popular with audiences with over $281 million earned worldwide while critics also praised the film for Zellweger's performance as well as the film's comic touch.
March 24th: What's It About?
Bridget Jones is a 32-year-old slightly overweight woman living in London and working at a publishing company where she spends most of her time fantasising about her womanising boss, Daniel Cleaver. At her parent's New Years Eve party, she bumps into childhood acquaintance Mark Darcy where it quickly becomes apparent that she has been set-up. However, Bridget and Mark have nothing in common and after hearing Mark dismiss her as "a verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and dresses like her mother", Bridget decides to turn her life around and start a diary charting her attempts to find Mr Right, stop smoking and lose some weight.
Shortly after, she begins a torrid relationship with Daniel after shamelessly flirting with him at a book launch. Despite frequently crossing paths with Mark and his beautiful colleague, Bridget soon discovers the downside of dating a notorious womaniser and leaves her job to begin a new career in television. But despite Daniel pleading for Bridget to return, she begins to see Mark in a new light when he offers Bridget a helping hand in her own career.
April 19th: Main Cast
Sharon / Shazza
May 6th: Technical Info
Richard Curtis, Andrew Davies & Helen Fielding*
Release Date (UK)
13th April, 2001
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Academy Award Nomination
Best Leading Actress (Zellweger)
July 16th: What's to Like?
Unashamedly female in its appeal and its direction, Bridget Jones' Diary is largely a success due to the surprisingly well-cast Zellweger in the lead role. With an obvious but neccesary weight gain and a pitch-perfect south-eastern English accent, her performance feels far more believable than her two male costars. Like the book, the film derives most of its humour from poor Bridget's misadventures including pratfalls, miscommunication and blatant references to Jane Austin's Pride And Prejudice on which the source material was loosely based on. Zellweger shows that she's game for all of this as well as proving her many doubters wrong by delivering a performance that is both likeable and heartbreaking in places.
The film also benefits from a fine soundtrack that, sadly, feels very Millennium these days with hits from the likes of Robbie Williams, Geri Halliwell and Gabrielle but is still worth a listen. The comedy might not be that cutting edge (you can feel the influence of writer Richard Curtis on the material and not just because his frequent collaborator Grant is among the cast) but for most women, it comes through identifying with Bridget's ruminations on the nature of love while frequently falling foul of it. The film's strength is the recognition of the central role while Zellweger excels in as a woman desperate for happiness but unsure of the path to it. And (possible spoilers here) it's also considerably better than the half-witted sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason.
August 9th: Fun Facts
- To help prepare for the role, Zellweger spent a month working at a publishing company in London under an alias whilst also developing her accent and gaining the weight. Her accent was so convincing that she refused to drop it away from the set - the first time Grant heard her natural voice was at the wrap party once the film was complete.
- Sally Phillips auditioned for the lead role, which was highly sought after, but lost out to Zellweger. However, she impressed enough to be cast as Shazza - a character believed to be a representative of director and friend of Helen Fielding Sharon Maguire.
- Acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie has a brief cameo in the film, which only came about after Fielding asked him if he wanted to make a fool of himself. According to Rushdie, he and Grant shot a scene where they kissed but this did not make the final cut.
September 23rd: What's Not to Like?
The film does have its issues though. Costars Grant and Firth seem completely out of their depth in the film, possibly because their characters feel somewhat underwritten - this is Bridget's tale, after all. Grant has huge fun as Cleaver, the caddish womaniser who shatters the memory of Grant's stuttering English gents in films like Notting Hill and Four Weddings And A Funeral that he had made his reputation on. But he feels like a pantomime villain compared to Firth, almost reprising his other Darcy role from the mid-Nineties BBC adaptation which turned him into a star. He seems embarrassed to be on screen, as if the material is somehow beneath him and personally, I don't think he and Zellweger have much in the way of chemistry. Pity.
The film does a decent enough job of romanticising London as a film location - much like Notting Hill did - but it doesn't have any imagination in its direction. I was hoping for a scene reminiscent of Grant's lonely wander through the streets and market stalls in Notting Hill scored brilliantly by Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine but I was to be denied. While there's nothing wrong with being a rom-com, it's a shame that the film is happy to just be a rom-com and nothing more. It's not very demanding of your attention and of course, you'll already know how it ends but if you're looking for something easily digestible then this will suit you fine.
November 2nd: Should I Watch It?
Bridget Jones' Diary might not be the page-turner the novel was but it's a decent enough addition to a genre which often disappoints and bores. Zellweger is marvellous in the lead role and delivers an unlikely role model for women in the 21st century while the film has enough male eye-candy to satisfy most female (or gay) audiences. But the film doesn't really seem to stretch itself and needed to be funnier, in my opinion. Having said that, I'm not exactly the film's target demographic!
Great For: ladies of any age, rom-com fans, borderline alcoholic singletons, Zellweger's career
Not So Great For: hairy-chested men, pushing boundaries, nice-but-dull guys
December 11th: What Else Should I Watch?
This film would be quickly followed in 2004 by Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason which continues the story but veers wildly off into highly improbable territory and straight-up farce. The film is a complete shambles, turning Bridget into a comedic dunce and soils the memory of this first film. It wouldn't be until 2016 when Bridget Jones' Baby completed the trilogy - far too late and missing Hugh Grant (who stayed away), it was the first film not based on one of Fielding's books. Nevertheless, the film still found an audience which possibly says more about the character's appeal than the quality of the film.
Austin's ever-popular Pride And Prejudice has received many cinematic treatments over the years with the first film version appearing in 1940. But the screen has seen several reinterpretations recently with the likes of a Bollywood version (Bride And Prejudice), a traditional costume drama (2005's Pride & Prejudice) and even a zombie horror which is naturally called Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. Frankly, I have yet to see a better version than the six-part series the BBC produced in 1995 which saw Firth cement his A-list status by emerging from a pond in a white shirt - a legacy he finally seems to have shaken off.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox