Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is a lovable goofball. Clumsy, pudgy, lacking poise, apt to say the wrong thing and do something inappropriate just when she most wants to make a good impression, she’s imperfection personified. That alone makes her a welcome blast of fresh air in a time when women on-screen are increasingly generic, with their requisite thinness and one-note beauty.
The underappreciated Bridget Jones is what used to be referred to as plucky; someone maintaining reservoirs of optimism while continually threatened by utter defeat. On New Year’s Day, when she begins a new diary to document a new and improved year of less fat, fewer alcohol units and (eventually) no cigarettes, she also hopes — meekly and defiantly — for romance with a sane man. In the year of Bridget Jones’s Diary, she gets more than she bargained for.
Author Helen Fielding (who adapted her novel with Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis) and director Sharon Maguire have transformed a witty text into a bright, vibrant screwball romance. They’ve sent the very British Bridget (ideally embodied by Texas chameleon Zellweger) on a ride that’s part roller coaster, part bumper cars.
A London singleton facing smug marrieds and her own conflicted expectations, our Miss Bridget becomes involved with her boss, publisher Daniel Cleaver (a deliciously smarmy Hugh Grant), in what? A fling, a quasi-relationship, or could he actually be Prince Charming? There’s also a dark horse, the smugly aloof and super-competent lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who shows glimpses of a warm heart beneath his stuffed shirt.
Even with a few forays into “Absolutely Fabulous” slapstick, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a contemporary comedy of manners infused with the particular sensibility of its marvelously quirky heroine. Instead of a goddess, she’s an everywoman worried about who she should be, but always gloriously herself.
Put Bridget Jones on a pedestal and she’d soon tumble off, landing without much grace but greeting her fate with a hearty, raucous laugh.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].