Bridget Jones’s Diary
starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones written by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis
directed by Sharon Maguire
This is a British comedy based on the novel by the same title by Helen Fielding. British acquaintances of mine told me that there will be a sequel as well, because Fielding has written more than one book about the life of her fictional character, Bridget Jones.
I heard much about this movie before renting it on video to watch at home. I was not disappointed. I laughter dout loud while watching it, something that is fairly rare wnad by itself encourages me to recommend it.
Renee Zellweger is an American actress. A Texan. You might remember her from such other films as Nurse Betty. But the British accent she puts on sounds so good to my Canadian ears that when I began the video I thought to myself, “Hold on a second. I thought she was American. You mean she is British?!” But she isn’t, and one of the acquaintances who taught me about the book also informed me that there was some controversy in the U.K.about an American woman being brought in to play the lead character is this much-loved story.
One last note about Renee Zellweger’s British accent: my British acquaintances say that it is good, but criticize it for being “a bit too clipped,” “to BBC,” and even “too overboard.” I have to confess that I don’t know what that means.
Bridget Jones’s Diary reminded me a lot of the U.S. TV show Ally McBeal(starring Harrison Ford’s girlfriend, Calista Flockhart, the show was canceled this Spring after five years, or “season,” due to falling rating), known in Japan as “Ally My Love,” the title of the original pilot of the show. Both deal with the lives of 30-something female yuppies (a lawyer in the case of Ally McBeal, and a publishing company office worker in the case of Bridget Jones) who are unmarried and without children and feel increasing pressure both from society, their families, and form their own expectations of what constitutes a full and happy life. They feel love-les, unfulfilled, and under pressure to do something about it before their biological clocks tick completely down.
In the film Bridget narrates her own story - a style in film that was inaugurated by the British, I think, in Michael Caine’s 1960s comedy, Alfee. It is a style you see again and again form the U.K.: Guy Ritchie moves Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, the old Up Pompeii movie (an earthy comedy featuring Frankie Howard) and many more. It is not just a matter of the thoughts of the main character being overdubbed so that the audience can hear what the character is thinking. You see that all the time in detective movies. I mean movies where the main character actually talks straight to the camera as if it was a person, and then the camera follows him/her around in a jerky manner, as if the cameraman was using a shoulder-carried camera.
Bridget tells us that at the age of 32 she is afraid of turning into Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987, directed by Adrian Lyne, co-starring Michael Douglas and Ann Archer, really scary if you haven’t seen it).
Bridget’s mother is always trying to fix her up with eligible men, and adds to the pressure she feels with criticism of her appearance like the endearing “You’ll never get a boyfriend if you look like something that wandered out of Auschwitz.” (It’s not true. Bridget appears positively chubby. I think the mother was referring to her daughter’s clothes, not to her weight. In the book Bridget is always battling her weight.)
Bridget’s mother looks like Margaret Thatcher. It’s the hair. But she also looks old enough to be of Margaret Thatcher’s generation. I was shocked when I heard the mother describe a potential date to Bridget, stain across the room at a Christmas party. The man is a divorced lawyer (“barrister” in British English), slightly older than Bridget, but a childhood acquaintance. The mother says, “His wife was Japanese - a very cruel race.” The comment gets repeated later in the film when Bridge quotes her mother in a different situation.
What is that all about? I think it might be a generational ting. If Bridget’s mother really is of the World War Two generation then racist stereotyping like that might still be common (in the retirement home corridors).
Buying and keeping a diary is a Christmas gift to herself that Bridget hopes will help her gain more control of her life and improve it. Her New Year’s resolutions are to find a nice, sensible man and to stop flirting (first thing tomorrow). In particular she promises herself to stop associating with, fantasizing about and pursing any man who is: an alcoholic, workaholic, commitment phobic, peeping tom, megalomania, emotional f_ckwit, and pervert. In other words, to leave alone her boss at the office, Daniel cleaver (Hugh Grant).
The film has a lot of vulgarity. The F-word is everywhere. Smoking and drinking feature in almost every scene. I thought, “Do British people really smoke and drink so much?” and imagined I could smell the reek of tobacco emanating from the plastic video cassette. It is interesting to hear British swear words, anyway. They are all quite different from what you hear in North America.
Just as in Ally McBeal, everyone in Bridget’s Jones’s world is totally self-absorbed: completely self-indulgent, hedonistic, 30-something, amoral non-human animals. I wonder how representative these types are of people of that age group. If they are then I must have lived all my life remarkably isolated form normal people and am now out of touch. (No, I’m not out of touch. Everyone else is wrong!)
The last thing I want to say is to describe why I was laughing out loud during the movie. Bridget works for a publisher. The company is releasing a new novel, Kafka’s Motorbike, promoted as “The greatest book of our time.” At the cocktail party to launch the book Bridget gets up on stage to make the introductions of this great book to an audience that includes Lord Jeffrey Archer and Salman Rushdie, playing themselves. They were playing straight-faced to Bridget’s comedy, and it was great.
Archer - a former politician, cabinet minister, and member of the House of Lords, but now disgraced and in prison in the UK. as a result of a perjury conviction , is one of the best selling British writers of recent decades (despite being a really bad writer). As a writer he is more like a mechanic than an artist. The same is true of Stephen King in the US., who is similarly acclaimed.
But Salman Rushdie is a true artist, and one of the greatest and most sophisticated writes in the English language today. (He is famous all over the world for being the target of a death sentence, or fatwah, pronounced by the late Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran for his 1980s novel The Satanic Verses, which was deemed an insult to Islam and deserving of death to its author. Rushdie has lived in hiding, with constant protection ever since. He occasionally comes out in public but then returns to carefully guarded anonymity.)
It is just such a farce to label a debut book by a first-time writer as “The greatest book of our time” with two of Britain’s greatest contemporary wordsmiths standing right the in the room.
Bridget has a knack for falling into one faux pas after another by saying pretty much whatever she is thinking straight out, without any impulse control and self-monitoring.
I enjoyed it. You will, too.