Mark Reviews Movies


3 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Sharon Maguire

Cast: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent

MPAA Rating: R (for language and some strong sexuality)

Running Time: 1:55

Release Date: 4/13/01

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Review by Mark Dujsik

And I thought romantic comedies had become stale.

After two dreadful showings in this genre this year alone (The Wedding Planner and Someone Like You), I am taken utterly by surprise by this film. Bridget Jones’s Diary follows the same old formula but manages something of a rarity nowadays—it’s romantic and funny (now there’s a stretch). I thought my cry for help had been left unheard until now.

Bridget Jones’s Diary is based on the novel by Helen Fielding (unread by me as of now, but I have a feeling that will change soon enough) who also co-wrote the screenplay. This fact alone should give fans of the novel a sense of calm, and I have a hunch the film is faithful to the source material. There were those loyalists who were afraid the casting of American Renée Zellweger and the potential market for the movie would cause a great injustice to their beloved book, but they can stop worrying now. It’s wonderful.

Bridget is a plump 30-something woman with a few personality quirks. The film begins with a holiday visit to her parents’ home, and we see where those quirks came from. She is set-up to meet a man named Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, playing a character based on another he played in the miniseries of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) whose pool she used to run around naked in at age four. She makes a little fool out of herself in front of him, and he seems to toss her aside. Later, she is seen sitting alone in her apartment drinking and singing along to "All by Myself." A little after this, she starts her diary.

She works at a London publishing company where she flirts with and is hit on by her boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). We meet Cleaver right after Bridget describes the one type of man she should never date. He is "a workaholic, an alcoholic, megalomaniac," etc., and then we see the elevator doors open on Grant who gives a single look that completely embodies all these traits. After some more flirting, the two start dating, and Darcy somehow seems to be around more than he should.

What follows is very similar to the recent Someone Like You but much smarter and funnier. Of course, this is all formula, and I’ve said before that the only way to judge romantic-comedies anymore is to talk about how we get to the inevitable. Bridget Jones’s Diary is the female equivalent to last year’s High Fidelity. It’s not about the plot or a gimmick; it’s about the people who inhabit the world of the film. They seem familiar, both in terms of personal and film-going experience, but at the same time completely win us over or disappoint us with their actions.

Take, for example, Bridget herself. She’s not Ashley Judd or Jennifer Lopez; she’s not typically glamorous. She is the kind of person you see walking down the street every day. She quietly grows on us because we understand and sympathize with her plight. We’ve all been through what Bridget feels, female or male. Zellweger finds all the right notes in this role. She gained twenty pounds for the film, and she honestly comes off more attractive than other female romantic leads (not that physical appearance is the be-all and end-all of attractiveness). Her British accent sounded right to me (I am not a dialect expert—yet), and she is just plain adorable.

What’s important about this film as compared to other romantic-comedies is that Bridget is a woman who is capable of living life without a man. I complained in my review of Someone Like You that it seems all women in movies nowadays must find a man to be complete. Bridget Jones’s Diary takes some time to develop Bridget into a strong, single woman. She is at terms with herself, and once she finds a job she is happy with, it seems that all is well. She could go on like this and live happily ever after. When she does eventually find a man she loves, we are happy for her because we know she is already complete on her own and the man does, in fact, deserve her.

When it comes to romantic comedies, Bridget Jones’s Diary is as good as it gets. It has great comedic moments and creates a nice place for an extraordinary character to roam about in. Considering the success of The Wedding Planner and Someone Like You, I will be completely shocked if this film fails to find an audience. Like Bridget, it deserves the best.

Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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