Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Directed by Sharon Maguire
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones.
2001 97 minutes
Rated: (for language and some strong sexuality).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 13, 2001.
After early disdain from fans of the novel, by Helen Fielding, for casting the very much American, very much not chubby, Renee Zellweger (2000's "Nurse Betty") in the role of a British woman battling her weight, addictions, and dignity in "Bridget Jones's Diary," Zellweger has proven all naysayers wrong with one of the most charming, likable performances to come along this year. Zellweger may be from Texas, but in preparing for the role, she moved to London, acquired a flawless English accent, and put on over twenty pounds so that she is now--not fat--but an even more beautiful, healthy-looking woman (unlike most rail-thin Hollywood actresses today). Tellingly, Zellweger nails the juicy part so well that it is, indeed, difficult to envision anyone else playing Bridget, because for 95 minutes, she is Bridget.
Spanning one year in the life of 32-year-old singleton Bridget Jones (opening and climaxing at New Year's Eve), who writes press releases for a book publishing firm, she decides that she is so fed up with the habits in her life that she will start a diary, monitoring her smoking, drinking, weight, and attraction to usually crummy guys. Bridget wants nothing more than to meet a sensible, nice man, and her latest two options are Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), her flirtatious boss, and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a man her parents initially set her up with that she instantly despises after hearing him talk negatively about her behind her back. Daniel seems like her perfect match, but looks are deceiving, as Bridget is about to find out about both potential mates.
"Bridget Jones's Diary" is a delightful romantic comedy from start to finish, headlined by yet another performance from Renee Zellweger that can only be classified as a revelation (after equally notable turns in "Nurse Betty," "Me, Myself & Irene," and "Jerry Maguire"). Zellweger is the star attraction in each and every scene, and she runs with the movie. It is her that we follow, and it is her razor-sharp portrayal of the occasionally clumsy, self-conscious Bridget that we root for to be happy. Not only that, but she also succeeds in getting, at times, almost non-stop laughs, thanks to the embarrassing situations she gets herself into, the biting screenplay by Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies, and her on-the-mark, naturalistically humorous line delivery.
Zellweger is so captivating that she inexplicably casts a shadow over every other actor around her. Still, other fine performances emerge. Colin Firth (1998's "Shakespeare in Love") and Hugh Grant (2000's "Small Time Crooks"), especially, do well as the requisite love interests, with both turning out to be exactly the opposite of Bridget's first impressions of each. And Gemma Jones (1999's "The Winslow Boy") and Jim Broadbent (1999's "Topsy Turvy") are effective as Bridget's parents, who after over thirty years of marriage, have split up, with Mum going to work at the Home Shopping Network.
Lasting just over an hour and a half, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is short enough that it never overstays its welcome, although there are about two too many false endings before the real one arrives. An over-the-top fight that breaks out near the ending also goes on a bit long, and might have been better had it been excised completely. The grand finale, however, is an invigoratingly sweet cap-off to the time we have spent with Bridget, with an utterly satisfying turn-out.
In Bridget is an unforgettable modern-day screen character, and what she learns during the film--that she is perfect just the way she is--is a positive message that anyone, man or woman, young or old, should take to heart, and remember. Making the cake even sweeter is that we actually have Zellweger to spend the well-used time with, as she discovers how to accept herself, and we as the audience discover how a dazzling romantic comedy is pulled off.
©2001 by Dustin Putman