Director: Sharon Maguire
Writers: Helen Fielding (screenplay), Andrew Davies (screenplay), Richard Curtis (screenplay), Helen Fielding (novel)
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
“Worried about your weight and feeling sorry for yourself? Put all the bad stuff in your diary and take all the good stuff to the office!”
Bridget Jones’s Diary surprised me. The media pitched Bridget as a plump thirty-two year old feeling sorry for herself because she isn’t married. And then – like wow, somehow – she captures the eye of her playboy boss as well as the heart of London’s most eligible, just divorced bachelor. This pushed a few too many “dream on, honey” buttons for me. When I rented the video, I fully expected to fast forward through Ms. Jones’s antics, amusing myself with yet another predictable romantic comedy where mishap overcomes mismatch and ends happily ever after.
But, as I said, I was surprised.
I think you’ll agree that Bridget Jones (girl next door, Renee Zellweger) falls in that category of normal weight that turns into overweight when summer requires a bathing suit. You’re looking at magazine models and thinking “maybe I’ll go for the one-piece with see-through mesh at the waist instead of a bikini”. Even in a “fat girl” designer wardrobe, Bridget doesn’t seem particularly overweight on the big screen until the skinnie-minnie ad agent from New York shows up. Then the camera lines them up in direct competition across the handsome shoulders of Daniel Cleaver, Bridget’s bad-boy boss and lover (an ever charming, Hugh Grant) while he pits one against the other. Bridget didn’t have any trouble attracting this guy when she wore her mini-skirt to the office, nor a moment’s problem arousing him to perform his sexiest tricks in the sack. And he comes back for more. Apparently at any weight, a mini-skirt is a powerful thing while skin deep beauty –– even at the thinnest of weight –– barely lasts through the night.Bridget Jones’s Diary makes the weight issue a non-issue.
Then, even more surprising perhaps, Bridget Jones’s Diary reveals the truth about a subtle but growing pressure for young women to fit into the career girl image. Bridget, a “girly” girl –– one who is sweet, sensual, caring and delightful but also a bit scattered, politically inept, not especially ambitious nor particularly intellectual –– struggles to feel okay about herself. The problem is that while many women have learned the tricks of getting validated in the public world, that validation still depends on male-dominated values. You gotta perform. Or you gotta be married. Or, preferably you gotta be both. Just being yourself to the max is a fantasy of fulfillment perpetrated by the media without a very close look at how “the max” –– at the minimum –– means fitting into a tight skirt, getting a glam job and being articulate at critical moments.
We may worry a little about what’s going to happen to Bridget after the movie ends. They’ve puffed up her image as a fledgling journalist who wins national acclaim for a first interview, arranged by you know who –– London’s most eligible. But he’s the same guy scripted to make a big point about liking her for who she is, not the professional she could be. So for now, we can love her good-hearted spirit, wacky friends and willingness to go out on a limb to chase a feeling that doesn’t quite fit into a real sentence. I’d like girls to feel okay about staying “girly” as they grow into women if that’s what “being one’s self to the max” means to them. Loving and living would be a lot more in sync, and a lot more fun. I believe Bridget Jones’s Diary makes this point.
And, making another point that was made best by Mae West, Bridget Jones’s Diary puts forth the London lawyer, Mark Darcy (Jane Austin era, Colin Firth), as a man “better looked over than overlooked”. Another stereotype goes center stage for scrutiny. Women often believe they have to choose between adventurous and stable when choosing a mate. But I believe Darcy, “the boring guy with a wild passion under his overcoat waiting for a snowy day” makes a statement for men not women. Mark’s been dumped by his wife, wears tacky gift attire to family Christmas parties and can’t muster a facial expression past a longing puppy. This hardly seems like a man to give Hugh Grant a run for his money. However, Mark proves to be a wolf under grandma’s clothes as well as a stand-up guy, making grand romantic gestures just when they’re needed.
Who thought this guy up? Whoever! Open the closet, guys!
Mark proves there really isn’t anything about being quiet, high-powered, ambitious and well-mannered that disqualifies a man from cooking up a frightfully good evening of fun, fighting with his fists as well as his head and being a great kisser. And you gotta love that new diary thing. Here’s a man who seems to trust that a woman putting all that bad stuff in a diary makes for a lot of good stuff in real life. Maybe we’re headed for a sequel –– and maybe Bridget will fulfill my dream as Mark’s beloved, staying pure of heart and surprising us with soups of many colors.
P.S. Dare I mention Bridget’s mum? She wakes her husband out of the dark ages when men took their wives for ninnies, freshening up her marriage with –– as I said, dare I mention it –– an outrageous fling to match a Hugh Grant escapade any day.