Synopsis: Uncensored. Uninhibited. Unmarried.
This hilarious romantic comedy is the story of Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), a 32 year old “singleton” who decides to take control of her life by keeping a diary. With a taste for adventure and an opinion on every subject – from her circle of friends, to men, food, sex and everything in between – she’s decided to turn the page on a whole new life. Despite her efforts to get her act together, she finds herself caught between two men – Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), a man who’s too good to be true, and Marc Darcy (Colin Firth), a man who’s so wrong for her, he could be just right!
eyelights: Colin Firth. Hugh Grant.
eyesores: Renée Zellwegger. the contrived melodrama. the cheesy soundtrack
“After all, it’s only a diary. Everyone knows diaries are just… full of crap.”
I just watched ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ for the first time. I hadn’t ever planned to, since I can’t stand Renée Zellwegger and figured that a romantic comedy with her in it could only suck the air out of my life. But I discovered that Richard Curtis had co-written the screenplay, and he was the genius behind ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral‘, ‘Notting Hill‘ and ‘Love, Actually‘.
Except that this isn’t a Richard Curtis film: he only co-wrote it with two others, and it’s directed by someone else.
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ was sappy pap. Sadly, it’s everything I had initially expected it to be. Geared entirely towards women (because men can’t like romantic comedies), it’s supposed to be relatable for 30-something single women who have lost all hope of finding their “one”: it recounts the romantic misadventures of a 37-year-old self-proclaimed spinster as she finds hers.
The problem is that is all felt so contrived and the main character is pathetically awkward. I mean, I’m awkward as all get out in social occasions and I would never EVER be as awkward as she is; she’s verbal diarrhea incarnate. Her outburst are meant to be funny, but they are actually cringe-worthy; I had to look away to avoid the embarrassment unfolding before me.
Honest to God.
And yet we’re supposed to believe that Bridget Jones can suddenly win the hearts of her foxy sexpot of a boss, of a brilliant but stuffy litigator, and of the general public – after she becomes a television personality (as if she would make it on television, being the oratorial trainwreck that she is). It might have worked for Sandra Bullock many years ago, but not here.
It didn’t help that Renée Zellwegger is a horrible actress. Or, at least, I dislike her style. Very much so. Movies she’s in that I like are usually in spite of her or some aspect of her. Here she affects a HORRIBLE British accent that seems to waver with every other inflection. Perhaps she’s spot on but, to my ear, she’s an amateur who couldn’t match her British peers.
She’s no Sandra Bullock (And I’m no fan of hers either! Just sayin’…).
Zellwegger was likely picked because she’s not Hollywood glamour and, thus, it makes her more contextually appropriate; she is supposed to be “every woman”. Dear diary, what makes me saddest most of all is that, while I’m sure Bridget Jones is supposed to represent how some women feel about themselves or their lives, I’ve no doubt that’s merely insecurity, not reality.
The movie only amplifies a falsehood about themselves and feeds into a desperate fantasy: that there is one person out there who will love us for who we are, faults and all. That may be true, the world being as diverse as it is, but it’s also so huge that it’s quite possible that the twain will never meet. It’s really just a stroke of good fortune when the right people do.
But, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with being a “spinster”. Why is Bridget Jones’ value dependent on her love life? Women are more than just their relationship status. And while it is fulfilling to be in a truly loving relationship, one must be fulfilled already before being in one. Live your life, Bridget. Live your lives, ladies! Don’t hinge it on someone else.
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ was astonishingly bereft of journal entries. Jones decides to start a diary to begin telling “the whole truth” about herself, hoping that this would be a sort of therapeutic practice that would help her sort her life and get a man. But we aren’t privy to any of it. You’d half-expect a movie named after something to make that thing its centerpiece.
Or at least refer to it a lot.
Um, no. Not this ‘Diary’.
But, dear diary, that’s the least of it:
Why do so-called chick flicks have to have a gawdammed musical/lip-synch number? Right from the start, Jones is lip-synching along to a weak rendition of “All by Myself” over the credits. While smoking and drinking (she does a lot of both, for some reason, for an “every woman”). It’s meant to be cute, but it just looks pathetic. And don’t get me started on the karaoke bits.
B-t-w, do romantic films all have to revolve around holidays now? Is it to ensure the film’s longevity, knowing that, at these key moments, there will always be an audience looking to revisit or discover sappy crap? This one actually doubles down: while it doesn’t hit Valentine’s Day, it begins on New Year’s Day and ends at Christmas later that year. Not that we noticed the passage of time.
And why does Bridget have sex with a bra on? Daniel just gasped “That was amazing”, but I’m hoping that she wasn’t wearing panties, too, because dry humping shouldn’t be THAT amazing. I’m sure Zellwegger didn’t want to do on-screen nudity, but there are other ways to make this look realistic and sexy and safeguard her honour at once. For a modern woman, she’s so very fifties.
Time to turn the body-shaming tables on the guys for once: Why are Hugh Grant and Colin Firth so damned skinny here? What in God’s name happened to them to be so scrawny here? Amusingly, Jones is complaining about her weight all the time (and admittedly, Zellwegger looked mildly heavier than in other films), but the guys were slimmed down to nothing. Was it for contrast?
Um… why does everyone smoke in this dammed movie? We’re talking 2001, here, and it looks like the picture was set in the ’70s, when everyone’s mouth was an ashtray. WTF! I’m pretty sure it’s not a Brit thing, so what is it? An “every person” thing? Who is supposed to relate to these ambulant smokestacks? It’s so bad that the rampant alcoholism totally paled in comparison.
Why do chick flicks frequently have tacky soundtracks? ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ got it right. ‘Love, Actually’ got it right. As did ‘Notting Hill’. I mean, this one is riddled with clichés, from Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” to Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and then piles it on with cheesy pop numbers like “It’s Raining Men” by Geri Halliwell and “Out of Reach” by Gabrielle.
Dear diary, I wonder who was surprised by the big revelation that Daniel and Mark’s past relationship was misrepresented by Daniel. It SCREAMED “bullshit” from the rooftops, for goodness’ sake!!! The fact that the flashback was blurry and that we didn’t see the characters’ faces immediately alerted us that not all was as it was portrayed. And, oh my, what a surprise!
And who was surprised that the last piece of contrived melodrama was merely subterfuge? It was so obvious it hurt.
At least the picture has a few strengths:
- There are a couple of really sweet moments, like when Mark admits to Bridget that he’s always liked her just as she is. Yes, it’s sappy. Yes, it’s wishful thinking. But it’s supposed to be a fantasy, and it’s a nice one. I also loved how he found a way to save the day when her interview went to pot. Yes, it’s convenient and coincidental as all get out, but ’twas nice of ‘im.
- The male leads were superb. Hugh Grant was winsome as ever, even if he played a douche bag. Geez, the guy oozes charm and is utterly disarming. Meanwhile, Colin Firth plays a less likable character, but he makes him sympathetic anyway. His performance is the counterpoint to Grant’s and help anchor the piece. Together they nearly make up for Zellwegger.
- There’s a great subplot about Bridget’s parents separating because her mother wakes up one day wishing more validation in her life, having always tended to her husband’s needs. I liked that there was this element of soul-searching, although I was disappointed that she made the wrong choices and wound up limping back home. The message: Just stick with your old codger, ladies.
Don’t dare to dream for better.
- Finally, Bridget Jones had a few empowering moments. You can’t have a modern romantic picture without them, but thank goodness for that. After all the self-loathing, poor choices and deep insecurities, at least there was some self-respect in there somewhere: after realizing she’s been played, she uses that to improve herself and her life, not sulk. And even puts the guy in his place.
Twice. (Go girl!)
But, ultimately, dear diary, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ is paltry tripe. It caters to romantic comedy crowd without really offering anything more than what’s expected of the genre. But it wasn’t clever, it wasn’t especially funny, and the romantic bits didn’t feel especially genuine. Given its reputation, I’ve no doubt that the book was superior. But this ‘Diary’ is empty.
Date of viewing: January 3, 2016