To celebrate Renée Zellweger’s birthday last week, I decided to give Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) a celebratory spin… and was pleasantly surprised by how fresh and funny it still is, after all these years (and several previous viewings).
It’s no secret that the plot was lifted from Pride and Prejudice… and this film even shares a screenwriter (Andrew Davies) and cast member (Colin Firth) with the BBC adaption of Jane Austen‘s classic that inspired/influenced author Helen Fielding while she was writing the newspaper column on which this film was based! One of the film’s major strengths is how compelling its central love-triangle is, with the relative appeal of the two rival suitors (Firth and Hugh Grant) fluctuating throughout the story… and that’s largely thanks to the sturdiness of Austen’s original structure, and timeless quality of the characters she created. Thankfully there are enough new jokes and details here to make this loose reworking sufficiently different, and enjoyable on its own merits… in fact, I’d probably rank it as one of the greatest rom-coms of all time… and rate Bridget herself as the most adorable, relatable, and fanciable film heroine in recent memory! That’s partly down to the writing, of course, but a lot of the credit also has to go to Zellweger, who gamely gained 20 pounds and took a temporary job at an English publishing company, in preparation for the role. Hiring an American to play the eponymous Brit proved rather controversial at the time, but the supporting cast is stuffed with so much local talent, I don’t have any cause for complaint!
Gemma Jones plays Bridget’s restless (and vaguely racist) mother ‘Pamela’, with Celia Imrie as her cheery accomplice ‘Una’, and Honor Blackman as a party-going acquaintance named ‘Penny’… Shirley Henderson and Sally Phillips play Bridget’s sweary singleton gal-pals ‘Jude’ and ‘Shazza’ (the latter supposedly based on the film’s director, Sharon Maguire, a long-term friend of Fielding’s), while Claire Skinner plays her “smug married” friend ‘Magda’, and Felicity Montagu plays her slightly-senior work-colleague ‘Perpetua’… Embeth Davidtz and Lisa Barbuscia appear as antagonistic nemeses for our heroine… and Sarah Alexander makes a cameo appearance in a deleted scene, as one of Daniel’s many random hook-ups!