Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Helen Fielding's popular newspaper column cum best-selling chick book is eased into film form by the practiced skills of screenwriters Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies, working with the author, and the director upon whom the heroine was allegedly based, Sharon Maguire. There was some kerfuffle at the time about the casting of an American actress (though hardly then a major name star) as the very English Bridget, though no one seemed to raise a fuss that year about a Brit landing the role of Fred Flintstone. Renee Zellweger has absolutely no accent problems and manages to be the perfect incarnation of the role, with DeNiro-esque extra poundage and a credible wardrobe.

There is a sense that the comedy business has been downplayed in order to come up with the throughline of a fairly typical romantic comedy. Despite Bridget's various misadventures coping with life, work and her dotty friends and relations, this is yet again the story of a girl who picks the wrong guy (Hugh Grant) before moving on to the right one (Colin Firth), with sundry plot-heavy misunderstandings delaying the final clinch. Grant, in oily mode only a fraction off his About a Boy persona, is amusingly appalling ('I couldn't give a fuck about Chechnya') while Firth shows his true colours because he's a barrister fighting extradition for a heroic dissident. There's a funny fistfight between them that plays up the slapstick side of things (as does a repeated bit about sliding down a fire-pole) while farce is handled when Bridget shows up in a bunny girl costume after the party has decided to abandon the tarts and vicars theme.

An array of strong supporting players from sitcom and Britfilm - Felicity Montagu, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips - don't actually get enough to do, as the side-details of Bridget's life are pruned away to make room for the love story. Set in a strange London and home counties with snow and 50s exteriors with 80s-look interiors in publishing and crap TV, this certainly catches a particular milieu. The success of the franchise in all its forms may well have to do with the recognition factor among people who haven't been reprsented in film and fiction, which is why there's something a touch problematic about the happy ending - surely, by coupling up Bridget stops being herself.

First published in this form here.

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