Alexander Larman has reviewed the Region 2 release of Bridget Jones’ Diary. An enjoyable film, although one that doesn’t stand repeated viewings, is released on a technically fine disc, and a slightly surprising extra
I was briefly tempted to begin this review with the seemingly obligatory pastiche of the witty, shorthand style that Helen Fielding, Bridget’s creator, developed in the original articles that the book was based on, but decided against it, on the grounds that it didn’t really suit a review. (Try telling that to the legions of hacks who tried to do so anyway). An immensely popular book, the film was always going to be a substantial hit, and so it proved to be, delighting audiences everywhere. However, on subsequent viewings, it’s hard not to think that this really is an insubstantial bit of fluff, albeit a highly enjoyable one.
The plot, as essentially cribbed from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is a simple one. Bridget Jones (Zellweger, Elizabeth Bennett in P & P, more or less) is a moderately lonely spinster in her early thirties, trying to find Mr Right. Daniel Cleaver (Grant, Wickham in P & P) is her boss, a dashing but caddish lothario who seduces her, but Mark Darcy (Firth, take a wild guess) is the initially stolid barrister who might just be the guy for her. Meanwhile, a subplot concerns her parents’ deteriorating marriage, and allows Jim Broadbent to be superb, as ever.
As (co) written by Richard Curtis, this is the third in a loose trilogy of films that began with Four Weddings and a Funeral and continued with Notting Hill. While this film isn’t as cynical an effort to woo a transatlantic audience as the second, it lacks the freshness of the first, with too much of the film seemingly dictated by commercial concerns. Britain is as scenic as ever; London as picturesque as in every other romantic comedy. It’s obviously asking too much to demand gritty realism in a film like this, but the slightly more ‘realistic’ treatment of romance here (i.e Bridget has anal sex at one point, albeit off screen) seems at odds with the chocolate box cinematography.
The casting of Zellweger, thankfully, was an excellent choice; although her accent is occasionally slightly artificial-sounding, she is genuinely likeable and sympathetic as Bridget, anchoring the film in an emotional centre when it threatens to become little more than a procession of (admittedly excellent) jokes. Firth is fine as Darcy, in a role that feels more like an in-joke than an actual character, but it’s Grant who steals the film completely, relishing the chance to break away from playing stuttering blunderers and portray a bastard for a change. When he’s on screen, the film becomes genuinely engaging; when he’s not, it often relapses into a kind of pleasant inertia, with some good jokes but little real engagement.
I certainly enjoyed the film when I saw it at the cinema, but repeated viewings mean that the laughs subside into smiles, and the smiles hardly register any more. The comic highpoint, and the best scene in the film by miles, is the climatic fight between Cleaver and Darcy; the reason why it works so well is because it actually shows men fighting in as inept a fashion as they normally do, and enables the audience to engage with the characters, an emotion that the film, unfortunately, doesn’t produce enough for it to be considered any more than just good fun.
The transfer is absolutely fine without being at all spectacular, as you’d expect from a low-ish budget film that was made recently. Colours are all fine, the picture looks strong throughout, and there is no visible print damage of any kind. Slightly bizarrely, the film is filmed in 2.35:1 widescreen; it’s hardly the sort of screen-hogging epic that demands it.
The 5.1 mix does a fine job of showcasing the songs and dialogue that make up most of the film, if not a spectacular one; of course, you would hardly expect this to be a test disc of any kind!
An OK selection of extras are provided here. Maguire’s commentary is fine, if nothing spectacular, concentrating more on anecdotes than anything really interesting. Incidentally, for those of you who were offended by the overdubbing of the word ‘cunt’ at one point, the commentary track has it clearly audible, making a mockery of the disc’s 15 certificate given the BBFC’s guidelines, as well as Maguire specifically mentioning the word on her commentary. Small children may well be corrupted.
The other extras are the usual bunch. The deleted scenes are all good fun, with a bit more insight into the Cleaver character and a couple of plot holes being resolved. The music videos are insubstantial fluff, the featurette is interesting but far too brief, and the Bridget Jones articles, while hilarious, are going to be of limited interest if you’ve already read the book (which I would guess most people who have seen the film have).
An entertaining film is presented on a pretty good disc. This isn’t the sort of thing you’ll want to watch over and over again, but it’ll make an excellent present for a girlfriend, family member or random lonely spinster. The disc is fine technically, with some enjoyable although lightweight extras, and it’ll be interesting to see if the current pressing is in fact recalled when the BBFC realise the commentary track’s breaching of the current certificate.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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