Bridget Jones's Diary (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner17/04/2001

Four stars out of five
Running time: 105 mins

Thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy – smart, saucy, brilliantly-cast,superbly acted and laugh-out loud funny with pleasing regularity.

Bridget Jones’s Diary started life as a newspaper column in The Independent, before becoming a zeitgeist-defining novel that ‘spoke’ to 30-something "singletons" (read: single women with careers and crap boyfriends) everywhere.

It spawned a host of pale imitations and a sequel and has now, finally, reached the big screen. In doing so, it faced a number of potential stumbling blocks, chief among which were the gasps of shock that greeted the news that an American actress (and a Texan, no less) had been cast in the title role. Happily, Renée Zellweger more than answers her critics, and her performance holds up a defiant two fingers to all those who were foolish enough to judge her before the results.

The story is probably pretty familiar, even to those who’ve never read the book. Frustrated with her weight, her job at a publishing firm, her continual smoking and drinking, her parents’ wobbly marriage and the ongoing crapness of her relentlessly boyfriend-free love-life, 32 year-old Bridget Jones (Zellweger) decides to start a diary with a view to improving her life. However, no sooner has she sworn off unsuitable men than she finds herself involved in a saucy e-mail flirtation with her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). At the same time, she finds herself both attracted to and infuriated by seemingly aloof human rights barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) – the man her parents are quite keen to set her up with…

Undoubtedly, the main reason that the film works so well is down to its terrific casting. Zellweger’s accent slips a bit at times, and takes a little bit of getting used to, but otherwise she’s fantastic in the role and nails Bridget’s ditziness and insecurities perfectly. Her much-publicized ‘pizza and Guinness’ diet really pays off here, too: she looks gorgeous on screen – not fat, exactly, but, well, "real" – you definitely notice that she’s ‘bigger’ than most actresses look on screen (huge thighs, ‘chunky’ arms etc), and, thankfully, the movie doesn’t end with her slimming down to ‘Hollywood-normal’ size.

The two male leads are also perfectly cast. Firth, of course, is well-known for playing Mr. Darcy in TV’s Pride and Prejudice and Fielding’s original novel featured Bridget lusting after Firth / Darcy and subtly mirrored the structure of Austen’s novel. Needless to say, the film drops the explicit references to the TV series, preferring to let its impressive casting coup (apparently down to the fact that co-writer Andrew Davies also adapted the Pride & Predjudice TV series) speak for itself.

The real stroke of genius, however, was in allowing Hugh Grant to play against type – he’s far better as a ‘charming bastard’ than as the usual bumbling fop he’s done to death in the past. As a result, he’s better in this than he has been in a long, long time. Not only that, but he may have carved himself a whole new ‘sex symbol’ niche into the bargain! There’s great support, too, from Shirley Henderson, Sally Philips (as Bridget’s foul-mouthed friend Shazza) and James Callis as her friends, and from Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as her parents.

The film is well-directed by first-timer Sharon Maguire (a documentary-maker and apparently the real-life inspiration for Shazza) and Bridget’s voice-over works well and isn’t over-used. There’s also a neat ‘writing on screen’ bit at the beginning that sets the tone and enables at least one great gag but - again - isn’t over-used and ensures that the film doesn’t get bogged down in the fags/booze/weight details that were prevalent in the book.

There are lots of great scenes, and even the scenes that aren’t in the book (the hilarious climax, the superbly crap fight scene) don’t seem at all out of place. Other highlights include Bridget obsessively rewinding the video footage of her arse coming down the fireman’s pole and Cleaver’s boating incident. There are some neat little touches, too, such as the expression on Bridget’s friend Tom’s face when she announces "another two courses to come" at her disastrous dinner party.

If the film has any flaws, they are the usual ones we’ve come to expect from London-set films, namely Dubious Geography (Bridget walks off London Bridge and into Piccadilly Circus, going the opposite way) and impossibly pretty, fairy-tale-like snow-bound streets. These, however, are minor gripes (as is the fact that the weights have been Americanised into pounds) that don’t detract from the film in any major way.

All in all, then, this is a long way from the disappointment that was Notting Hill – so much so that even a vomit-inducing cameo from Jeffrey Archer can’t spoil it (though it should definitely have been cut). Ultimately, though, it’s enjoyable, sweet, well-acted, romantic and, crucially, delivers regularly in the laughs department. A must for both sexes!

Film Trailer

Bridget Jones's Diary (15)
Be the first to review Bridget Jones's Diary...
image
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

image
02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

image
03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

image
04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

image
05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 18/10/2017 12:15

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films