Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Review by Catalyst

Directed by Sharon Maguire
Written by Richard Curtis, Andrew Davies, & Helen Fielding, based on the novel by Helen Fielding
Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones

My Advice: Matinee.

Bridget Jones (Zellweger) is just over thirty and overweight. She drinks a little too much, smokes a lot too much, and talks entirely too much. She's also chronically single, a fact that her mother tries to fix every year by fixing her up with a guy who's completely wrong for her. This year it's Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a lawyer in whose wading pool she ran around naked in when she was a small child. (Her mother, of course, makes sure to bring this up.)

So Bridget decides to get control of her life with a diary, which is occasionally used to let us know her current weight and number of cigarettes, as well as a bit of narration here and there. The diary doesn't actually keep her from going out with her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Grant), of course, even though she writes in it what a jerk he is before she ever starts dating him.

This is, for the most part, a year-in-the-life story. We follow Bridget on her little voyage of self-improvement, witness the romantic triangle between Bridget, Mark, and Daniel, see her career moves, the situations with her parents (her mother has left her father for a rather phony man on the English equivalent of the Home Shopping Network), and the reactions of her friends to her life.

Colin Firth does quite well with the little material he has to work with--we hate him when Bridget does, and we soften to him at the same time as the leading lady. He's a trifle underdeveloped, but let's face it, this isn't his movie.

Hugh Grant was the most surprising. I went to see this movie because it was a love story with Hugh Grant, and I thoroughly enjoy Hugh Grant Movies (TM). Of course, every movie Hugh Grant does is a Hugh Grant Movie, in which he plays the same incredibly charming (but not incredibly confident) Englishman who is in over his head somehow. It's a formula that served well in Hugh Grant Dates a Starlet (aka Notting Hill), Hugh Grant Faces Fatherhood (aka Nine Months), and even as far back as Hugh Grant Helps Fight a Vampiric Snake Demon (aka Lair of the White Worm). Although I was looking forward to watching Hugh Grant Dates a Woman Who Writes Things Down, I was pleasantly surprised to see him in a different role. Daniel Cleaver is charming, yes, but confident, oily, and someone you have no problem disliking. He doesn't steal the screen, and you never have to remember that this movie is about Bridget Jones.

Overall, Bridget Jones's Diary was carried by Zellweger from beginning to finish. You feel for her embarassment, cheer her successes, and sympathize with her losses. You don't stop to think about how the actress is American but the character is British. (I can't speak to the accuracy of her accent, of course, but if it was wrong, it didn't stick out.)

And in this strength lies the only weakness of the film. Bridget is pretty much on screen every moment, and most of the other actors are set dressing. Bridget has a set of three friends, whom she introduces by their Defining Characteristics, and they never really show any character outside of that. Her parents are stereotypes (albeit stereotypes of people we know in real life). Only the men in her life get any real character development, and even they are painted with a pretty narrow brush.

Another underused character is the diary itself--mostly a plot device to allow for narration, but every once in a while, we'll be treated to her weight and the number of cigarettes she smoked today. Unfortunately, this isn't consistent. It happens four or five times in the movie, once actually written on the screen, once spoken as narration, once inserted onto an electronic billboard in the background... it would have been better served happening regularly and in the same fashion every time. It certainly would have made it a little smoother when the diary actually plays a part in the story.

Bridget Jones's Diary makes an excellent date movie. You won't feel ripped off if you pay full price for it, but if your date lets you get away with being cheap, go to the matinee.

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