Following suit with the late 90s era “Sex in the City” craze comes the 2001 Sharon Maguire piece “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Admittedly I’m not the intended demographic of the writings of Helen Fielding, whose 1996 novel of the same name earned her a fortune and would serve as the launching point.
One thing I am however, is a smitten fan of well written and well acted feel good rom-coms, and by name alone, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” is the leader of this genre. Sadly, the movie itself fails on the ‘com’ front and the result is a 90 minute exercise into how dating should be conducted, or at least how woman are supposed to interpret the art of dating.
Here, Renee Zellweger plays the titular Bridget Jones, and she does so in a thoroughly flawless performance in each and every way possible. Zellwegger demonstrates with her quirky demeanor and seemingly effortless ease as she portrays the unlucky in love Bridget Jones in an adorable and plausible way.
Zellweger has the mannerisms down to a science, employing the kind of facial expressions and indescribable cuteness that will make any man go weak in the knees. Unlike many of the other traditional rom-com or holiday themed stories, she’s actually believable as someone who is single.
The movie opens with her narration, explaining that “It all begins on New Year’s Day in my 32nd year of being single.” The prospect of spending another holiday season alone prompts Bridget to start writing in a diary and make changes in her otherwise lackluster life.
Narrations continue throughout as Bridget vows to lose weight, quit smoking, and find the ever elusive Mr Right. Zellweger is so great in the role you will actually feel for her as single woman in a pre-Tinder age. The movie follows her life with highlights emphasized in the diary for the next 12 months as she tries to avoid at all costs being alone the following holiday season.
While I love the premise, the story itself falls flat in its complete failure to be interesting in any way. I loved the beginning of the film, with an early scene depicting the loveless “spinster” Bridget alone on her couch, dressed in pajamas and watching Frazier with depressing music playing in the background. At one point she rises from her couch only to get a re-affirmation from her answering machine that she has no new messages. Anyone single can relate and it seems to be a perfect table setter to the movie.
As Bridget’s year progresses, she is continuously interrupted by two would-be boyfriends; her smarmy boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and somewhat dorky childhood friend Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Grant and Firth are equally impressive in the supporting roles; both are funny in a British sort of way, but neither oversteps their bounds in letting Zellweger be the true star of the film. We also see Bridget’s mother showing up from time to time in a comical and believable role played by Gemma Jones.
“The only thing worse than smug married couples?” A friend asks Bridget. “Lots of smug married couples.” Writing like this shows the story has the potential to be a funny movie when afforded the chance, but unfortunately, these moments are few and far between
What begins as a perfect comical romance tale quickly escalates into nothing more than Bridget being single. And that’s pretty much it. Eventually, you forget why you’re even watching at all. The character is a chain smoker, which I’m sure is developed further in the book. Here it comes across as distracting.
While Renee Zellweger’s performance is one for the ages, the movie moves slow. Most of these types of movies have predictable outcomes and this one is no exception. It can be enjoyed from an acting standpoint but not much else.
Alas, it’s Valentines Day season, and one could do worse. Maybe a female perspective is better suited for a review of this movie, but from a generic enjoyment standpoint, there are any other rom-coms that are vastly superior.
Matt coined The Movie Buff’s motto: Tough on movies, not on films, and takes reviews from the standpoint of an average fan. Check out bohemianbonfire.com for links to Matt’s published books. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter @MattDecristo.