Bridget Jones's Diary movie full length review - Bridget Jones's dreary
In the early 1990s, British newspapers were suddenly filled with columns written by journalists suffering from the arrogant delusion that their own lives were an subject matte
r of interest to their readers; journalists who often, with a startling lack of awareness, expressed shock and surprise when some of those they ridiculed in their articles (spouses, friends, etc.) took public offence. In response Sue Limb started writing the 'Dulcie Domum' column in 'The Guardian', an entertaining spoof whose fictional author was a struggling writer, whose limited understanding of the implications of their own words was the best part of the joke. 'Helen Fielding's 'Bridget Jones's Diary' came later in 'The Independent', but was very much in a similar vein.
In both columns, the terse style of a diary was used to invoke images of complete catastrophe in a minimum of words. Arguably, both belonged to a tradition started not in newspapers at all but by Sue Townsend in her 'Adrian Mole' books a number of years before.
'Bridget Jones', of course, had much more success than 'Dulcie Domum', although the writing was actually less good. But its subject matter, that of a thirty-something woman looking for love, had more resonance, I like to think because the concept was implemented with some subtlety. Bridget was a woman with deeply ambiguous feelings towards the romantic dream (of getting married, having kids etc.) that seemed to have passed her by; but was also a woman with little self-confidence whose erratic mood and behavioural swings owed much to her inability to handle the knowledge that she'd failed to fit the only approved template for a woman's life. The hidden tragedy was that if only she could think more of herself, she might find her life (disasters included) was actually not so bad. The column thus sympathised with Bridget, laughed at her, but contained also a degree of feminist anger at the way social values can on occasion reduce even highly competent women to states of emotional imbicility. But popularity brought popularisation: a move to 'The Daily Telegraph', then to hard covers and finally to celluloid.
And the load of witless drivel that is this film.
The original idea has here been reduced to a sub-Austen story about a beautiful but utterly ditzy idiot (with an apparent mental age of about thirteen) appearing in lots of sitcom-inspired moments of excruciating embarrassment, and falling in love at the same time. In many respects, the film character is the sort of person the original Bridget might have feared (when at her lowest ebb) she would become if she didn't find a man: a recognisable caricature of herself, but not the same thing at all. The essential angst of Bridget's condition is not dwelt on at all (the original was reliably single except for occasional one night stands, the film version claims to be afraid of being left alone but actually has no shortage of chasing men); while the dry comments of the diary, instead of inspiring the imagination as they did in the columns, in the film simply underscore already obvious incidents (the use of pop music to re-enforce every other point is also crass). Meanwhile, the overall direction of the plot is telegraphed from the start. American Renee Zwelleger manages of British accent of sorts, but her social class is wrong (she sounds far too posh): indeed, the essentially middle class dreariness of the original Bridget's life is traded for something altogether more glamorous (and fake). The film also invites us to accept her self-assessment as "fat" as face-value (it's true she fattened up for the role, but this tells us nothing except the perverse standards of actresses).
'Bridget Jones Diary' is romance for teenagers (the smutty, unfunny jokes and exaggerated swearing also confirm this). Incidentally, a new report out last week said there are far more single men than woman in Bridget's age bracket. But there's no market, I guess, for films that encourage men to do themselves down and identify with characters as juvenile as the Bridget who is represented here. The implications of that statement are even more depressing than this monotone film.