Once again, without an ounce of remorse or regret, I’ve found myself falling down a rabbit hole Rom-Com classics, both good and bad, and I’m happy to never see the light of day again. And though I’ve seen these films probably a thousand times over, they still feel as fresh as a first kiss, as if I’m watching for the very first time. Most recently, I’ve revisited an old favorite, Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and it doesn’t disappoint.
A modern take on Jane Austen’s classic novel, “Pride and Prejudice”, Bridget Jones’s Diary follows the hapless chain-smoking every-woman, Bridget Jones, charmingly played by Renée Zellweger (Jerry Maguire), who at the onset of her 32nd birthday, with constant crippling reminders of her single status, weight, and drinking habits decides to change herself for the better. As a New Year’s Resolution, Bridget decides to lose weight, her unhealthy habits, and find a nice sensible boyfriend. She truthfully chronicles all of her misadventures in a diary. Bridget clumsily struggles in her quest for love and growth starting with the dreaded set-up by her mother who introduces her to the handsome but reserved, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who comes across as frigid and cold. Things begin to look up, when she catches the eye of her charming boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant).
Expertly Directed by Sharon Macguire, Bridget Jones’s Diary is an enchanting adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, with Fielding also penning the script alongside Richard Curtis (Love Actually), and Andrew Davies (House of Cards). This film is beautifully crafted, from script to screen, and it would be nothing without its stellar cast: Zellweger, Grant, and Firth are a divine trinity.
Renée Zellweger’s performance as Bridget Jones is relatable, funny, poignant. She is the glue that holds everything together. We follow her through each mistake, each awkward exchange, and decision and we love her a little more every time. It’s never easy for Bridget (Partially because she makes it harder for herself), but the fact that she is trying to grow, is what makes us gravitate to her.
Colin Firth as Mark Darcy gives us a performance that is subtle and magnetic. We get to know him as Bridget does, not only does it offer us a standout first impression but it makes for a lasting one. Firth’s performance is nuanced. He says so much with so little. Whether it’s a second held glance or a subtle smirk, Firth is an understated, but a fantastic leading man.
Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver is devilishly dashing. Grant, always the Rom-Com connoisseur, does not disappoint as the charming Editor-in-chief with a secret. We fall in love with his silver tongued one-liners and his natural confidence. He is anything but dull. His performance livens up every scene and leaves us wanting more.
For Bridget, Daniel Cleaver is the final horseman, in the quest for growth, self-love and to be loved for just the way she is. For Bridget, who has a habit of not committing to her goals and a penchant for falling back into old ways, he is in some ways the ultimate test, when it comes to deciding for herself the kind of love she deserves. The moment she does serves for some of the best moments of the film.
The 90s were known as the golden age of the Rom-Com. The climax was the character’s first kiss and our happy ending was happily ever after packaged in the prospect of the perfect relationship. Now, things are less naive and a little more cynical. Audiences want romances that reflect their realities not just the good stuff, but the hard stuff too. We want awkward, we want complicated, we want not only the kiss, but sex and the fluidity that comes with it! The early 2000s introduced a new era of Rom-Coms. One that offered not only heart and humor, but a little complication. This era took away the veil of innocence that the 90s staples offered.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is no exception. It gave us a glimpse at the ‘New Modern Woman”. She’s awkward. She’s vulgar. She’s slightly above average. She doesn’t know where she’s going or what she wants, but she’s ready to figure it out. That is one of many aspects of this film that makes it so timeless. Bridget is a heroine that we can relate to. As much as we might want to, we can’t all be Julia Roberts.
3 films and 19 years later, the jokes have not grown stale and the laughter earned is still hearty and full. The film is witty, smart, and timeless. It maintains its relevance through the universal themes of self-improvement, the journey of self-love and wanting to be loved for just the way you are.
The Soundtrack is sublime. From Aretha Franklin to Diana Ross, the soundtrack is utilized frequently in the film to bring emotional beats around full circle. The film of course is full of classic tropes but it wears them so well. At times the film’s pace feels fast at moments and just right at others, but that doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable. It mimics Bridget as she struggles to change and grow.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars.
Overall, Bridget Jones’s Diary remains a staple of its time. Still one of the all time greats. It offers heart, humor, and hours of quotable content. With a wonderful cast and a sensational script to match, it’s a wonderful adaptation. This film is witty, timeless, and worth every re-watch.