Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Review
The Bridget Jones phenomenon erupted into the mainstream in the late 90s, when Helen Fielding’s newspaper column about a fictional ‘singleton’, Bridget, was turned into a bestselling novel that seemed to strike a particular note with its fans. Bridget, in her 30s, obsessed by losing weight and finding the right man, narrated her tales of ups and down with a typical self-deprecating humour that instantly made her a household name.
It was inevitable then that she would also attract the attention of film-makers, and in 2001 the highly successful Bridget Jones’s Diary was released. The fact that it starred Renée Zellweger as a very British ‘heroine’ caused some controversy in the early days of news regarding the film, but she seemed to do the job well... aided ably of course by Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, who played the rivals for her love in the first film. So, why am I spending so much time talking about the first film when this review is ostensibly for its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason? Basically because it’s pretty much the same thing, made over again and with different sets. If you liked the first, you’ll probably also warm to this one... whilst recognizing, hopefully, that it’s not really in the same ballpark in either humour or overall quality.
The film starts the story after Darcy (Firth) and Bridget (Zellweger) have been dating for a short while, and it purports to look at what happens after the ‘happy ending’ of the first film. Unfortunately, where Bridget was likeable and foolish in the first film, here she’s merely self-destructive! She suspects Darcy of an affair with his secretary and after all sorts of Bridget-like fripperies ends up splitting up with the love of her life. Single again, she ends up taking a reporting job that brings her to Thailand and also puts her back in the company of Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) again. The complications are precisely the same as before: will Bridget stick with a solid (albeit a little dull) and safe love prospect, or will she lunge for the other extreme and end up with wilful cad Cleaver? And then what will happen when Bridget lands herself in the kind of trouble only Darcy can help extricate her from?
Beeban Kidron (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) takes over the directorial chair from Sharon MacGuire, but the only main change in the feel of the film is that the settings move out from London and the Home Counties and encompass Austria and Thailand! There are changes from the book (which I have to admit I haven’t read), but I do know the biggest alteration is the appearance of Daniel Cleaver – added so that Hugh Grant could again be a part of the ‘movie magic’ and help to recreate the success of the first film. It’s not Kidron’s fault that the film just isn’t as funny, touching or romantic as Bridget Jones’s Diary... it’s more the writing losing some of its comedy and the situation losing its novelty. We’ve already come to know Bridget and to see her find happiness – so then to watch her, through no one’s fault but her own, ruin her own good situation leads to less sympathy for what’s to come. Also, we’re never really in any doubt that she’ll get back safely to Darcy’s arms and that he’s hopelessly in love with her.
The actors know the score by now and work together well. Zellweger is as good in the role as she was previously and Hugh Grant and Colin Firth seem to have no difficulty at all slotting back into their roles. The chemistry between the three is good, and that’s actually one of the major plusses the film has going for it. Skilled at their trade, they’re used to these roles and all three possess a good sense of the deadpan and comic timing that’s required for a romantic comedy. (And of course Grant and Firth are both also well-versed in playing romantic leads, so it all works in their favour.)
While it’s true that romantic comedies don’t need suspense or action sequences (even if the catfight between the two men that played so successful in the first film it’s naturally wheeled out for a second showing here), they do however require, well, a tad more comedy and maybe just a bit more romance than witnessed in this sequel. It’s not a terrible film, and it’s certainly not traumatic to watch, but it’s just not as good as the original by any stretch.
While the film is given an anamorphic presentation on this disc and in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is visually disappointing on several fronts. The most serious flaw seems to be a faint but persistent grain that hounds the entire print, detracting from even those scenes where the film borders on genuine sharpness. The overall effect of this is a ‘softening’ of the picture quality that occasionally borders on out-and-out fuzzy.
Now, it’s been a while since this aired at the local cinema, so I can’t recall offhand whether or not the print was soft there too. If it was, then obviously this was a stylistic choice on the part of the director and the grain is merely part and parcel of the type of film stock chosen. If it wasn’t, then someone clearly dropped the ball when it came to the actual transfer, because it honestly doesn’t look nearly as good as it should.
The good news is, other than the above complaint, the video is free of any other notable defects. The colour palette is robust and similar to that used in the first film, the black levels are spot-on in all of the nighttime scenes, and there doesn’t appear to be any macroblocking or rainbowing present. So overall a decent effort, though not as crisp as other recent film releases on DVD.
The soundtrack is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and the ‘background’ music track seems intent upon the inclusion of pop songs that are often a little too loud for my liking and threaten to override events in the foreground. The audio really isn’t pushed too hard here as the film relies primarily on dialogue rather than on action, but at least the left/right stereo directionality functions well and the speakers do get a little bit of a workout. Don’t expect a lot of fancy sound effects from the rear soundstage, however.
Menus & Extras
The disc menus turn up after a brief but pleasant montage from the film that’s quite nicely designed, but a bit annoying if you like to get at your menus straight away. Personally, I don’t mind these sorts of intro menu transitions; anything’s better than a series of forced trailers, so I quite enjoyed the styling here.
When you go to play the film, you’re given the option of watching it as it was shown in the cinema or viewing it alongside an interactive quiz, which stops the film from time to time to ask a multiple choice question. At the end you get told whether Cleaver or Darcy is more for you! You can also access this feature separately via the actual extras menu, so don’t worry – you can find out this vital information after watching the film straight through if disturbances aren’t your kind of thing. It’s an attempt to be a Cosmo type quiz that would appeal to women like Bridget, and it goes on for a bit too long for my tastes, but it’s amusing enough and fitting for the DVD.
Speaking of the extras menu, it’s split into sections along a character theme; you can select Bridget, Cleaver or Darcy and under each is a few special features. A little clunky in design here, as a simple and straightforward list of extras would have done it for me – but again, it shows that at least some thought went into the bonus features for this disc, and I applaud that. (By the way, all of the special features on this disc are subtitled, which is a welcome sight.)
If you select Bridget, then you get access to the biggest extra: an audio commentary by director Beeban Kidron. And yes, this really is available as a subtitle track (a bonus point there, as many DVD commentaries forget to include this option). The commentary is pleasant to listen to but fairly bland. There’s a bit about how it differs from the book, the usual anecdotes regarding the actors (plenty of these!), and bits about the locations and how various sets were built. It doesn’t stand out as either dull or fascinating, but I wouldn’t want to have missed it, as it did genuinely add something to my knowledge of the film, cast and the process that went into making this feature.
Also under the ‘Bridget’ is a short featurette on the Mini Break to Austria which is interesting fluff, and a series of deleted scenes with director introductions. The scenes are a mixed bag and are fairly long and weighty cuts from the film. While you can see the reasons why they didn’t make the final product (especially as the film is fairly long itself), it’s always nice to have these glimpses of what might have been, especially when they raise a laugh themselves.
The Daniel Cleaver menu selection takes you to The Smooth Guide to Thailand, which looks at how some of the Thailand scenes were shot and what kind of work went into that, and there’s that interactive quiz mentioned previously. Finally, there’s another short featurette called The Big Fight where everyone gets to have a laugh about the Cleaver/Darcy sissy fight that once again rears its head in a Bridget Jones film. (Still, it actually did make me laugh, so I shouldn’t be too callous about it.)
The Mark Darcy menu selection includes Bridget Jones Interviews Colin Firth, which never made it into the film, but refers back to a point in the novel where Bridget gets to meet the object of her desires – the actor Colin Firth. Tinkering with the idea of trying to include this in the film, we have Zellweger in-character while Firth is playing himself. It’s quite interesting and while I could imagine ways in which it could have gone into the film, the self-referential nature and joke of it all is not really in keeping with the rest of the feel of the film and it would have broken any suspension of disbelief people were building up, however clever and amusing the sequence might have been. Anyway, under Darcy’s section there’s also a small promotional piece called Mark and Bridget Forever and Lonely London, neither of which are very meaty, but that’s not to say they’re useless additions. Perhaps just ones for completists.
Finishing off the extras are a group of three film trailers, for Wimbledon, Meet the Fockers and Billy Elliott: the Musical.
For all the criticism that this is romcom-by-numbers, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work just fine. The cast are great in roles they and audiences now know well and they play to all of their strengths. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason mostly suffers in comparison to the film it’s a sequel to, and this is obviously something that can be said about many other sequels. It’s not necessarily my kind of thing, being a little too obvious in its romance and in its comedy, but it’s a solid affair with a good selection of extras to round it out and make this DVD a more appealing purchase/rental.