Bridget Jones’s Diary

After finishing my editorial for SH this evening (it took most of the day to finish; everything's been taking far longer than I expect lately), I watched Bridget Jones's Diary.

It was okay. Nothing special. A few very funny moments. Almost all of the good lines were given to various male characters: Hugh Grant as Daniel; Colin Firth as Mark Darcy; James Callis as Bridget's gay friend Tom.

Bridget's female friends were practically cut out of the movie; I suppose removing their subplots was necessary to keep the movie a manageable length, but it did leave me wondering why the characters were left in the movie.

One thing I like about DVDs is the chance to see the authors onscreen. Helen Fielding turns out to be kinda cute—who knew? There was an entertaining comment in the making-of piece to the effect that the story was lifted directly from Jane Austen because Austen was good at plotting, and her stories had been market-tested for 200 years. . . Okay, maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, casting Colin Firth (Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice) as Darcy was inspired (apparently the character was based on Firth as Darcy from the start, even in the original newspaper-column incarnation of the story), and casting Hugh Grant as Daniel was a lovely notion as well. I like seeing Hugh Grant show that he has a range. He doesn't go quite as far here as in An Awfully Big Adventure, where he was cast about as far against type as you can get, but he does get to be a bit of a bastard.

The biggest problem I had with the book was being uncertain whether we were supposed to find Bridget a whiny loser or an underappreciated heroine. I think Fielding was trying to say something like "We all have moments when we screw up, maybe even many such moments, but we know that underneath it all we're charming and worthwhile people." But for me, it felt more like Bridget alternated between disastrous idiocy and moments of brilliance, and I had a hard time figuring out whether to laugh at her or with her. I loved the instant-message exchanges between her and Daniel; she was sharp and witty in those. But that didn't seem to match her character in most of the rest of the book. (I realize that I started the book with a major handicap, being male and all; I suspect that the real charm of the book lies in identifying completely with Bridget, and I suspect that's a lot easier for women to do than men. Not that I don't obsess about equally minor things; I do. But I had a hard time translating her obsessions in a way that made me empathize much with her.)

Anyway, so I went into the movie with a better handle on Bridget's character from the start—only in the movie I felt she had fewer redeeming features. Her best moments were excised, and there was a lot of focus on humor-of-embarrassment, which has never been my favorite form of humor. I have a hard time laughing and cringing at the same time most of the time. In the book, I could see what the male characters saw in her; in the movie, I couldn't, at least not much.

Probably my lack of connection with the world the characters live in (which is apparently also the world that a lot of real-world humans live in) can be summed up by the fact that in that world, Renée Zellweger is apparently considered overweight. I would have called her thin; I certainly wouldn't have said she had big thighs. Shows how much I know.

Join the Conversation