Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Original Columns, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos

When we think of foreign films, what usually comes to mind are movies from continental Europe or the Far East. Given that perspective, the definition of a foreign film for most Americans would be a movie, which isn’t in English. But, there are occasions when a film can be in English and still feel a bit foreign. That would seem to be the case with "Bridget Jones’s Diary", the latest film from the team that brought us "Notting Hill". However, given a chance, most viewers will find this very British comedy very delightful and entertaining.

Renee Zellweger stars as Bridget Jones, a thirtysomething Londoner who is unhappy with her life. She feels that she is overweight, smokes too much, drinks too much, and makes terrible relationship choices. The film opens at a Christmas party where Bridget’s mother tries yet again to set Bridget up with "Mr. Right". In this case, it’s Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a stuffy lawyer, who dislikes Bridget immediately. Following this, Bridget’s New Year’s resolution is that she will turn her life around and fix everything that is wrong with her. She intends to follow this plan by keeping a diary.

Of course, things go off-course immediately, as she begins an inter-office romance with her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), a smug "bastard" who isn’t very keen on relationships. While Bridget is trying to figure out how she can get Daniel to commit, and attempting to find satisfaction in her career, she keeps bumping in to Mark Darcy at parties and business functions. Darcy has been dating Natasha (Embeth Davidtz), a fellow stuffy lawyer who seems perfect for him. So, if Daniel is perfect for Bridget and Natasha is perfect for Mark, why does everyone seem so unhappy? If Bridget is to fulfill her resolutions, she decides that she must completely take control of her life and go after the happiness that she truly desires.

While the basic premise of "Bridget Jones’s Diary" may not be horribly original, it’s the character of Bridget herself that brings the film to life. Seldom is a female character portrayed as brutally honest as in this film. Bridget isn’t perfect, and the audience, as with all of the characters in the film, must accept that fact from the beginning. In fact, it’s Bridget’s defects that make her such a fun character. She’s unhappy with her appearance. She’s a terrible public speaker. She fakes her way through her job. These are things many of us can relate to and it’s that human element that makes "Bridget Jones’s Diary" such a good film. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the screenplay, based on the novel by Helen Fielding, is very funny as well and is full of many memorable scenes and lines. As hinted at earlier, some of the dialogue is extremely British, and you may learn some new terms and phrases while watching the movie, but the universality of Bridget’s dilemmas transcends any language or cultural boundaries.

The high-quality script is given an even bigger boost by the cast. There was a great deal of controversy over the casting of American actress Renee Zellweger as the British icon Bridget Jones, but she handles the part quite well. Actually, here Zellweger shows a looseness that has never been apparent in her other roles. (She always seemed a bit stiff to me). Her accent rings true and she’s able to handle both the dramatic and comedic parts of the role. All around good-guy Hugh Grant seems to having a ball playing an egocentric playboy. His usual charm is now imbibed with a sadistic streak, which shows a whole new side of the actor. British stalwart Colin Firth is very good as the uptight Darcy. His role may seem minimalist at first, but once he has to express emotion, the true value of this character comes through.

Miramax Home Video has the honor of unlocking "Bridget Jones’s Diary" for its DVD release. The film is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. The image here is very sharp and clear, giving the viewer little grain and no distortion. The colors (or should that be colours?) come across quite nicely, as illustrated in the first scene with Bridget’s red dress and Darcy’s green sweater. The fleshtones are realistic and this impressive color palette gives the image a lot of depth. There is a slight bit of edge-enhancement noticeable, but otherwise this transfer is very good.

Being a romantic-comedy, there isn’t a great deal of surround sound action in "Bridget Jones’s Diary", but the <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> does get to strut it’s stuff during the musical montages and the crowd scenes. The music is highlighted by a smooth bass roll-off. The all-important dialogue is always crisp and clear, with no hiss on the track. Also, the volume is always consistent, making this track a nice compliment to the visuals.

The "Bridget Jones’s Diary" DVD offers a nice sampling of extra features. The highlight, by far, are the seven deleted scenes. Now, we’ve all seen excised scenes and wondered why they were cut from the film. This is definitely the case here. The actual movie in "Bridget Jones’s", only runs about 90 minutes, so some of these short scenes wouldn’t have made the film overly long. The best of this crop is the original ending, which shows how all of the characters in the film react to Bridget’s final decision. It’s both funny and moving, and really ties all of the film’s themes together.

The DVD also includes an <$commentary,audio commentary> with director Sharon Maguire. You know from the beginning, when she admits her excitement to seeing the Miramax and Universal logos at the opening of the film, that this is going to be a fun commentary. Maguire is witty and open as she discusses the making of the film, the casting process, and her relationships with the actors. This theme is carried over into the 10-minute "making-of" featurette, which slyly pokes fun at these usually boring pieces. We are treated to interviews with the cast and crew, as well as author Helen Fielding. As with Bridget’s diary, the featurette sets up goals for itself and tries to meet them as it proceeds.

While I was familiar with the novel, "Bridget Jones’s Diary", I was unaware of the fact that Bridget’s saga began as a series of columns for the London paper The Independent. Several of these original columns are included here, giving the viewer/reader a chance to see how the character of Bridget Jones changed and evolved. Also included are two music videos, "Killin’ Kind" by Shelby Lynne, and "Out of Reach" by Gabrielle. In a strange move which Disney has been guilty of several times lately, the theatrical trailer for the film is not included here.

You know that a "chick flick" is successful when it can be enjoyed by all, and "Bridget Jones’s Diary" certainly fits that description. The film is smart and clever and, its very realistic view of life keeps it from becoming overly romanticized. The DVD offers a very nice transfer of the film, along with some interesting extras. Make a note to yourself to check out "Bridget" and all of her misadventures.