Bridget Jones's Diary
Directed by Sharon Maguire
Review by Lauren Snyder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm still torn between which tactic is better: should one read the book of the movie one is seeing, so as to achieve a better understanding of the author's intent, or should one skip it since the formats are so different that a faithful filmic adaptation of a book is nearly impossible and often, when achieved, dismal? I debated this with myself before deciding, "Sod it, I'll read Bridget Jones's Diary anyway." Very glad I did for my sake, for it was a very good book. Not very glad I did as a critic, for it made a cute movie seem like a so-so one.
The story is very easy to figure out from the trailer (but then again, the same can be said for almost every film out nowadays). Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a spirited but somewhat hopeless single British gal who obsesses over her weight and falls for her handsome, sleazy boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). She is supported along the way by her best mates, and driven mad on more than one occasion by her daffy mum (Gemma Jones). Fairly standard stuff, boasting wonderful performances by Zellweger, Grant, and the completely dishy Colin Firth as barrister and possible Mr. Right Mark Darcy.
Now I understand that turning a 200+ pages book into a film means cutting lots of information -- involved subplots including Bridget's mum and dad, best friends Tom and Jude, and certain fun scenes are MIA. However, in the translation to the screen, certain key facts about the main character are noticeably absent. For example, in the novel, Bridget is more supportive of her friends but also more self-centered. She is much more concerned about her weight, with only a lack of willpower keeping her from an eating disorder. Coupled with that is a very important scene in which she finally gets to her target weight, at which point her friends remark that she looks unhealthy and sad, and that she looked better before. Why this scene and its great message were removed for an extended and unnecessary fistfight between the rivals for Bridget's affection is beyond me. [It's not beyond the editor, who notes that this is keeping with Hollywood conventions. -- Ed.]
With all of this not present in the film, one is left with a poorly structured script and a title character who is a bit bitchy, a bit needy, and a bit foolish. In the wrong hands, Bridget would be utterly unsympathetic and the movie would fall flat, but the wise production team brought in Ms. Zellweger, who is so likeable and natural that she ably carries the film. Indeed, the performances of all three leads makes the movie a better affair than it is, and I'm sure it'll be successful at the box office. Yet the movie is fairly pedestrian compared to the book. My suggestion? See the movie, then read the book, and write to Helen Fielding to suggest a six-hour television adaptation for the BBC.
Hey, it could happen.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings