Director: Sharon Macguire
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, James Callis, Sally Phillips, Embeth Davidtz
Plot: Bridget Jones (Zellweger) is in her 30s, single and stuck in a dead end job. Her diary charts her quest to lose weight, find a decent man and conquer independence.
When it comes to the chick-flick genre, can any film truly compare to Bridget Jones? The truth is Bridget Jones’ Diary is so widely classified as the definitive chick-flick movie that whenever its tone gets too hammy, its plot gets too cliched or narrative gets too predictable, it is forgivable in the fact it is held up on a chick-flick pedestal. Bridget Jones may be unlucky in love, but in terms of cinematic power, she is apparently untouchable.
It helps that the story essentially draws most of its inspiration from the apparent daydreaming of most single women. Bridget Jones is a character who is easy to see in quite a lot of us, her worries and predicaments often revolving around exaggerated anecdotes we may have ourselves. She makes a prat of herself at a work party, failing at flirting by succumbing to her awkwardness and trying to balance being sexy and being comfortable. The fun of the movie is peeling back the image women show in the outside world to the behind-the-scenes truth. Cue Bridget Jones mooching around her flat, singing sad ballads and wearing ugly granny pants, under her sexy new dress. Renee Zellweger finds charm that the book’s character never managed, prying an endearing cuteness to her short-comings. She is a woman that is easy to love for her flaws, rather than her successes. Her clumsiness and inability to censor herself in public makes her loveable, instead of the fool the text makes her out to be. It helps that Macguire pushes this reading as well. The reason this movie probably plays out quite well with female audiences is because, while Bridget does take steps to try and make herself more attractive, she is ultimately loved when she stops trying to change. Her hunky work boss is attracted to her oddball nature. The handsome Mr. Darcy loves her for her honesty. The female audience are bound to love the fact that the male characters aren’t necessarily preoccupied with looking for a girl with looks, recognising the beauty within Bridget Jones. Of course, this does often mean that the movie veers into moments, where Bridget somehow messes everything up and ends up coming out of a situation better than she started. Sometimes Bridget Jones feels like a film without a point to its story, but all this does is add to the idea that we are reading a diary. There isn’t so much an end goal, as the sense of being swept up in the crazy current of life, crashing from one relationship to the next, surviving one drama only to fall into the next crisis. It gives Macguire the freedom to focus on creating fun, exciting set-pieces, rather than worrying too much about arcs. And Bridget Jones is undeniably funny. It lives and breathes on its humour, Zellweger totally understanding the best way to squeeze every laugh out of a scene. She is aided by two male supporting stars, Firth and Grant, who start the film in their stock love interest stereotypes but break into fun new ground. The street fight is up there with one of the funniest scenes the entire genre has ever managed. The actors are game and the resulting gag is genius.
Perhaps the only way you can find fault with this film is when you are looking back on the movie from modern day. The film suffers the usual problems of chick-flick stories, especially when they originate from this decade of film-making, where the female character’s motivations revolve almost entirely around finding a man to love. We are introduced to Zellweger falling to pieces without a male figure in her life. Bridget Jones is the kind of character that will have feminists pulling their hair out. Yet this is another criticism that is hard to make stick on the film. Much like calling Snow White a rubbish female icon, the argument doesn’t quite work when analysing a film so buried in pop culture. This is chick-flick 101 and not having the female fretting over two attractive men would feel strange. Besides, the wooing of Bridget feels genuine enough that the character never feels dominated by the male characters. If anything, the only person holding her back and making her powerless is herself. And that is the message that women should take away from this film.
Final Verdict: The definitive chick-flick movie. Zellweger is incredible, especially considering the ropey source text, and the film stands up as a solid classic despite its age.