Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
"Bridget Jones, wanton sex goddess!... Oh, hi mom!"
Finally, an adult romantic comedy done right! I could jump for joy. Since I’ve never read the wildly popular source material of Bridget Jones’s Diary, I can cheerfully ignore the hoopla over the adaptation of the novel and focus on the movie’s accomplishments on their own, which are numerous and impressive.
Bridget Jones, played here by Renee Zellweger, is your single, approaching-middle-age everywoman, complete with romantic travails, anxiety about weight and rampant self-destructive behavior. The film’s opening scene has her dressed up in adorable pajamas, drinking a round of vodka and crooning Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” at the camera. The scene is wry and hilarious with just a touch of poignancy, and the film will successfully maintain that tone through its entire running time.
The romantic dilemma is Bridget’s choice between her boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), immediately pegged as Mr. Wrong (not least because his name is “Cleaver”) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who must be the right guy since he shows up wearing a sweater with the head of a reindeer on it. Daniel and Mark have a history together themselves, with one of them apparently ruining the other’s wedding (though who the instigator was isn’t made clear until the end).
The other plotline involves Bridget looking for a new job after quitting her current gig at a publishing house. She is eventually employed by a cheesy tv news show where, on assignment, she makes her now-notorious slide down a fire pole. All of the day’s events — including how many calories she gained, how much alcohol she drank and how many cigarettes she smoked — invariably go down in her diary.
Though the situations she gets herself in are often extraordinary (such as a party she thinks is themed “Vicars and Tarts” but is actually not — oops), Bridget Jones herself is convincing as an actual woman, with real anxieties, feelings and thoughts, unlike the usual romantic comedy heroine who exists only to serve the plot. Renee Zellweger, who gained 20 pounds and a British accent (she’s from Texas) for the role, is almost astonishingly good, shutting up (almost) all of the naysayers who emerged when her casting was announced. It’s too early to talk Oscar, but here’s to hoping that the movie, released in the early days of April, isn’t forgotten next February.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is very funny aside from being very true, accomplishing more than a thousand of the gross-out comedies we’ve been seeing. This is that rare movie where what’s known as “intellectual humor” works and works consistently without the use of pretentious “in” jokes (though those can be hilarious as well — see State and Main). Just the aforementioned opening sequence had me in stitches.
Yeah, the movie ends with a “movie kiss,” but for once it’s deserved and we feel like it matters. Compare this to the kiss at the end of the very similar but far inferior Someone Like You, which came out of nowhere and wrapped up a nonsensical, joyless plot. Bridget Jones’s Diary is absolutely exhilirating.
-- Eugene Novikov
|Starring:||Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Colin Firth, High Grant, Embeth Davidtz, Renée Zellweger|