Thursday, 17 June 2010

Bridget Jones's Diary

Lowdown: The trials and tribulations of a modern day Western single woman in her thirties.
Review:
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of this 2001 release that I've seen so many times before, as probably you did too, let me ask this simple question: Why isn't the film called Bridget Jones' Diary?
Questions of English grammar aside, our main reason for revisiting this classic are to do with us revisiting the Jane Austen world again, in particular the Pride and Prejudice one. There can be no doubt about Bridget Jones being an attempt towards a contemporary Jane Austen style hero, Elizabeth Bennett in particular: First we have the main male attraction named Mr Darcy, and second we have that Mr Darcy enacted by the same guy who did Austen's original Darcy in the 1995 BBC production, Colin Firth (and let me state quite unequivocally that I consider his to be the best Darcy).
So how does a modern day Bennett manage? Well, she's portrayed by a cheerful Renée Zellweger who renders her into an average woman in size, figure, intellect and aspirations. Perhaps, as the original Bennett was, she's an average amongst the higher classes, as she's working at a slick publishing house in the cooler end of London. Oh, she's also thirty and she doesn't have a man to call her own.
Step in a Hugh Grant in the role of Mr Wickham and a Colin Firth/Darcy. The former has all the glitter around him but is as trustworthy as BP, whereas the latter creates negative first impressions but turns out to be deeper than Bertrand Russell. The question quickly becomes which of the two will Zellweger/Bridget/Elizabeth go for, and how she's going to tackle the challenges life throws down the path of a modern day lady in the first place?
Between Zellweger's acting and the cheesy script, this is your classic happy ending romantic comedy material. And let us not be around the bush there: As romantic comedies go, this one is one of the more effective ones. Perhaps this is due to it trying to say something about contemporary society through the comparison with Austen's 18th century original, pointing towards the conflicting challenges society imposes on modern day women: on one hand the need to be slim while on the other the need to bear children before the clock runs out; the need to have a career vs. the need to run family; the need to always be beautiful; and, let's face it, the need for a woman to stand by her man. It's that last point that troubles me the most, both with Bridget Jones's Diary and with Pride and Prejudice, for while both try to say something good about women both also end up admitting that a woman is no good without her man. Is it just an incident that in both cases the man has a much higher social status than the heroine, with the heroine using the man to jump up the social ladder?
My point is simply that while Bridget Jones' Diary is a nice film, it fails to point its finger at the real culprits. It wants to entertain us more than it wants to make us think and more than it tries to change the world. Perhaps this is why it has been as successful as it is; I would still prefer my films aiming higher, though.
Best scene: I always liked the scene where Firth/Darcy is introduced, wearing a home made sweater. So English, so sweet. I guess this love affair of mine with Firth also has to do with Firth playing me in Fever Pitch.
Worst scene: The Grant+Firth fight. Really, do guys still solve conflicts with good old fashioned fist fights?
Overall: Funny but not as funny as it could have been, interesting but not as deep as it should have been. Good entertainment, though. 3 out of 5 stars.

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