×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bridget Jones’s Diary

As the Bible of thirtysomething single women everywhere, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is one of the most eagerly anticipated book-to-screen adaptations in recent memory. Informed by author Helen Fielding's droll observations of a year in the life of her weight-obsessed, love-starved heroine, the novel hit a bull's-eye with women on both sides of the Atlantic. As a film, however, item misses its mark, failing to capitalize on the staccato rhythms and sardonic wit of Bridget's inner life.

With:
Bridget Jones - Renee Zellweger Mark Darcy - Colin Firth Daniel Cleaver - Hugh Grant Bridget's Mum - Gemma Jones Bridget's Dad - Jim Broadbent Natasha - Embeth Davidtz Jude - Shirley Henderson Shazza - Sally Phillips Tom - James Callis

As the Bible of thirtysomething single women everywhere, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” is one of the most eagerly anticipated book-to-screen adaptations in recent memory. Informed by author Helen Fielding’s droll observations of a year in the life of her weight-obsessed, love-starved heroine, the novel hit a bull’s-eye with women on both sides of the Atlantic. As a film, however, item misses its mark, failing to capitalize on the staccato rhythms and sardonic wit of Bridget’s inner life. That said, pic’s pre-sell value is solid enough to suggest initially healthy B.O. that could continue to generate decent returns, even as it will inevitably disappoint some of the book’s devotees.

Introduced in a series of columns in the U.K.’s Independent, Fielding’s lovably imperfect Bridget, with her incessant calorie counting, cigarette smoking and wine-swilling, inflected the British vernacular with a personal lexicon that divided her community into “Singletons” and “Smug-marrieds.” Little surprise, then, that the unlikely casting of American thesp Renee Zellweger over British actresses caused a row not seen since Tom Cruise donned fangs to play the vampire Lestat.

The good news is that Zellweger delivers as Bridget, and her fellow actors, including Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as the men she must choose between, are exceptionally well cast.

The bad news is that despite being edited down to a bare-bones 90-odd minutes, forcing the elimination of key characters and scenes and the underdevelopment of others, pic manages to feel, paradoxically, as dramatically flabby as the 10 pounds Bridget cannot seem to shed.

Things start off promisingly, with Bridget alone in her flat comically crooning along with the radio. Awash in red flannel pajamas and wine-induced haze, cheerfully oblivious and singing “All by Myself,” Zellweger breathes full-bodied life into Bridget. Opening title sequence is the movie’s best bit.

Soon she’s off to a holiday turkey-curry buffet where, for the umpteenth time, family friends barrage her with questions about her love life. Though her irrepressible mum (Gemma Jones) is scheming to fix her up with a childhood friend, party guest and top barrister Mark Darcy (Firth), Bridget, who suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, botches the encounter.

Needless to say, it is not a love connection. It’s not that Mark Darcy is so awful; it’s just that he’s a sartorially challenged snob who loftily dismisses Bridget’s attempt to make conversation. She much prefers mooning over Daniel Cleaver (Grant), her cad of a boss who has finally begun to take notice of her Ally McBeal-length skirts.

After a blissful and sex-filled courtship with Daniel, Bridget makes an unfortunate discovery that ends their romance. Not to worry, suggest her Singleton best friends Shazza (Sally Phillips), Jude (Shirley Henderson) and Tom (James Callis): There’s life beyond Daniel.

Surprisingly, there’s been interest from Mark Darcy, who’s apologized for his earlier behavior. In a thoroughly overstaged sequence that transpires at Bridget’s 32nd birthday party, there’s a showdown between Mark and Daniel leaving Bridget in a “Pride and Prejudice”-type dilemma of choosing between two men.

Above sequence, which is not in the book, has the effect of visually underscoring the conflict and further delineating Mark’s and Daniel’s own bitter history, but it reduces her friends to a simpering chorus. Other sequences memorable from the book are re-created with mixed success, including Bridget’s arrival at a “Tarts and Vicars” party in full Playboy bunny regalia, mortified to discover the party theme had been changed, and an infamous scene that finds Bridget trying to scurry up a fire pole.

Zellweger is a tireless sport about all of this. And despite the initial furor over her casting, her best roles (in “Jerry Maguire” and “Nurse Betty”) have indicated a sweetness, vulnerability and comic timing that make her perfect for Bridget. Gaining some 20 pounds, the actress has transformed herself into a lumpy, fleshy everywoman.

Sadly, Stuart Dryburgh’s lensing and Rachael Fleming’s costumes go a bit too far in making her look unattractive. As to her accent, Brits may complain about its authenticity, but Americans will be thoroughly convinced.

Grant and Firth are impeccable. Firth, whose performance as Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” was the model for Fielding’s Mark Darcy, brings unexpected depth to his role, while Grant, for once, thankfully gets to play against type. And perhaps it’s no small coincidence that both actors are mentioned in the book.

Documentary director Sharon Maguire, the real-life model for Fielding’s Shazza, has shown an uncertain hand in her first feature. Script by Fielding, Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill” scribe) and BBC “Pride and Prejudice” writer Andrew Davies could have benefited from using elements of the book’s diary structure, a framework it first adopts then jettisons inexplicably.

Pic also seems to suffer in some scenes from a lack of color correction.

Bridget Jones's Diary

Production: A Miramax Films release of a Universal Pictures/StudioCanal/Miramax Films presentation of a Working Title production. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jonathan Cavendish. Executive producer, Helen Fielding. Co-producers, Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin. Directed by Sharon Maguire. Screenplay, Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies, Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Fielding.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Stuart Dryburgh; editor, Martin Walsh; music, Patrick Doyle; music supervisor, Nick Angel; production designer, Gemma Jackson; supervising art director, David Warren; costume designer, Rachael Fleming; sound (Dolby), David Crozier; line producer, Peter McAleese; assistant director, Stuart Renfrew; casting, Michelle Guish. Reviewed at Charles Aidikoff Theater, L.A., March 28, 2001. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Bridget Jones - Renee Zellweger Mark Darcy - Colin Firth Daniel Cleaver - Hugh Grant Bridget's Mum - Gemma Jones Bridget's Dad - Jim Broadbent Natasha - Embeth Davidtz Jude - Shirley Henderson Shazza - Sally Phillips Tom - James Callis

More Film

  • WGA West Logo

    Writers Guild Sends Hollywood Agents Proposed Code of Conduct

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent Hollywood talent agencies a proposed “Code of Conduct” with tough new restrictions on how they operate as agents for writer clients. The WGA made the disclosure Thursday night in an email to its 12,000 members, a day after announcing that it will hold a March 25 [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Space Jam

    'Space Jam 2' Gets Summer 2021 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has set a July 16, 2021, date for its live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam 2,” starring LeBron James. Terence Nance, creator of the HBO show “Random Acts of Flyness,” is directing the sequel. His credits include “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” “Swimming in Your Skin Again,” and “Univitellin.” The movie marks James’ first [...]

  • Gwendoline Christie Star Wars Episode VIII

    Film News Roundup: Gwendoline Christie Joins Jason Segel-Dakota Johnson Drama 'The Friend'

    In today’s film news roundup, Gwendoline Christie is cast in “The Friend,” film preservationist Kevin Brownlow is honored, Demi Moore’s “Corporate Animals” gets sold, and BondIt Media Capital hires a CFO. CASTINGS More Reviews Sundance Film Review: 'Sea of Shadows' Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' “Game of Thrones” and “Star Wars: The Last [...]

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Heather Parry Fired From Live Nation Productions

    Live Nation Entertainment announced Thursday that Heather Parry will leave the company following a Variety investigation into allegations of workplace bullying. Parry ran Live Nation Productions, the TV and film arm of the touring conglomerate, for three years. In December, Variety reported that Live Nation’s human resources department had been repeatedly warned that Parry was [...]

  • A still from Sea of Shadows

    Sundance Film Review: 'Sea of Shadows'

    It’s a decidedly grim circle of life that moves us all in “Sea of Shadows,” a tight, troubling documentary eco-thriller that charts a compelling course of consequence from Chinese black-market apothecaries to the near-extinction of a rare whale in the Sea of Cortez, hitting on Mexican crime cartels and institutional corruption along the way. Austrian [...]

  • Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie Circle Edgar

    Matt Smith, 'Leave No Trace' Star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie Circle Edgar Wright Movie

    Matt Smith and “Leave No Trace” star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie are in negotiations to join Edgar Wright’s next film, “Last Night in Soho,” sources tell Variety. Details are vague about the psychological horror movie, other than it being set in London’s Soho district. Anya Taylor Joy is also in the cast. Production is expected to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content