Nov 8, 2014

Review: Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones's Diary was huge in the early 2000's as can be easily evidenced by its box office take. It was huge before it was ever even a movie because of the fact that it was based on Helen Fielding's 1996 novel of the same name. I'm more of a fantasy/sci-fi guy myself, so no I've never read it. It got rave reviews though so I'm pretty sure it's quite good as far as books go. I just don't think I really fit into the target market.

The casting of Renée Zellweger was a controversial decision though and for good reason if you ask me. Bridget Jones is an English character who needs a good English accent. Wouldn't it just have been easier to cast a native Brit in the role? Probably, but once everyone saw Renée performance it didn't matter. She blew everyone's expectations out of the water and got an Academy Award nomination for her efforts.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Sharon Maguire
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Jonathan Cavendish, Eric Fellner, etc.
Written by: Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies, Richard Curtis
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Running time: 97 minutes
Production company: Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, etc.
Distributed by: Miramax Films, Alliance Atlantis Communications, United International Pictures, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $25,000,000
Box office: $281,929,795 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Celia Imrie, James Faulkner, Shirley Henderson, James Callis, Lisa Barbuscia, Charmian May, Paul Brooke, Sally Phillips, Embeth Davidtz, Patrick Barlow, Felicity Montagu, Donald Douglas, Dolly Wells


Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) has hit a dead end in regards to her love life. She's hit her thirties and has no real prospects which results in some pretty heavy solo drinking. At a New Year's party being hosted by her parents, Bridget's mom (Gemma Jones) tries to set her up with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) who is a practicing lawyer. It's pretty much a complete disaster which serves as motivation to rethink her life and also start a diary. 


The story of Bridget Jones's Diary is a very familiar one. In fact it's based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and funnily enough has Colin Firth as Mark Darcy who had previously played Mr. Darcy in the very famous 1995 miniseries of the book. The similarities between the two stories are there and I have to mention that there are some very familiar romantic comedy tropes that make some appearances too. There really aren't any surprises at all but the thing is, that doesn't stop BJD from being a pretty good movie.

This is a movie that tackles the challenges of hitting thirty and single pretty well. I wouldn't really know, but I feel like it's done pretty well anyway. The parents are always nagging, other married couples come off as smug and your friends try to be supportive and helpful for you. Even meeting people is just awkward and unpleasant for the most part and all of this is done in very amusing fashion.

However, the real reason why Bridget Jones's Diary works so well though is all because of Renée Zellweger. First of all, her accent sounds flawless to me. I'm no English linguist but to my Canadian ear, Renée sounds genuine. She's given a lot of good material to work with and delivers it all in a charmingly uncharming way. She's constantly swearing, she's awkward but she's real too. She dangerously narrates throughout the movie and even that also works. 

There's also a lot of heart in BJD that is undeniably effective. Scenes that are supposed to be sad, happy or just cute are exactly that. Predictable maybe, but the feelings they're meant to convey get across very well. (Spoilers) I'm thinking of scenes like when Mark Darcy organizes an exclusive interview for Bridget with the person of interest in a big national court case or when Bridget has an outburst during the announcement of engagement between Mark and Natasha (Embeth Davidtz). (End Spoilers) I'm thinking that the likely suspect for that is screenwriter Richard Curtis with titles like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually to his credit.

There's a lot about Bridget Jones's Diary that is predictable and purely standard. The choices of songs during particular scenes for example are overly obvious and the story in general holds no surprises. However there's enough genuine heart to carry BJD to its conclusion and some good performances as well from Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and especially Renée Zellweger. It's easy to lump it in with other chick flicks but this is definitely one of the better ones.



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