Bridget Jones's Diary
directed by Sharon Maguire
(Miramax, 2001)

A few years ago, my friend Lydia called from New York to tell me I had to find and read Bridget Jones's Diary. She knows me well. I immediately fell in love with the tone of the book and with its namesake. It's not Jane Austen -- but, in some ways, its theme is very Austenesque.

And, oh, how the movie tries to live up to the book.

I'm a bit disappointed that the movie version of Bridget Jones's Diary forsakes several of my favorite moments from the book, relegates Bridget's friends to the bare minimum of screen time and drops plot lines wholesale. But, know what? Ultimately, I don't care. For a light, romantic comedy -- and there really is no other way to adapt Bridget Jones -- it's a winner.

The gist of Helen Fielding's book, based on her popular British newspaper column, is to follow Bridget, a 30-something "singleton," through a year of pining for her quite obviously disastrous boss Daniel (Hugh Grant), dealing with the "smug marrieds" who want to know all about her love life, her attraction/distaste for barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), whom she's known since childhood, and fighting, futilely, to follow her New Year's resolutions of no smoking, no drinking.

There's a humor to Bridget that's distinctly British, and the casting of Texan Renee Zellweger in the title role caused an indignant outcry in England. But the choice was, in Bridget's parlance, "Brill."

We meet Bridget at what she feels is her lowest -- the annual Christmas turkey curry buffet thrown by her parents' friends, the Darcys. It's yet another chance for the parents to try to throw Bridget together with the Darcys' son, Mark, and it's disastrous. Mark's appalling Christmas sweater, with a reindeer head, helps matters not one bit.

Bridget has eyes only for her boss and, for a bit, it seems Daniel can tame his philandering ways.

It won't surprise many to find Mark and Daniel know each other, or that they dislike each other, or that circumstances will throw them together often. It won't surprise you to find Bridget undecided about which man -- if either -- is worth her time and a sexy pair of knickers. In fact, not much of the plot will surprise. Even so, there are some gems: Bridget's humiliating turn at public speaking, her debut as a television personality.

But Bridget Jones is really about the dialogue, and it's here that Grant and, especially, Firth and Zellweger, shine.

It's tough to capture the feel of diary entries. Fielding, who also wrote the screenplay, translates Bridget's shorthand, and her inner life, to the screen. For Firth, it's another chance to break away from the "period movie sex symbol" label he got saddled with after a spin as Mr. Darcy in 1995's Pride and Prejudice. In the book, Bridget develops a crush on Firth, the actor, as Mr. Darcy. So ... here we have Firth, the actor, as Mark Darcy, in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones.

Mark Darcy's a man out of time, a man slightly ill at ease with the women of the 21st century. He's not alone. And a little jolt of Bridget Jones may be just what he needs.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 9 February 2002

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