Bridget Jones’ Diary is how you make a romantic-comedy. It has all the key elements mixed-together perfectly. A likable lead character, appealing and believable situations, a romantic story you can get invested in and some very funny moments.
The funny moments themselves feel perfectly British. It is very cliche to talk about Britain and the “stiff-upper-lip” and awkward social anxiety that feels deeply embedded in the culture but when you see the situations that Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones gets herself in, you can’t help but cringe, laugh and ultimately empathise.
That is because none of the situations feel too contrived. They are all great set-pieces which you could imagine (or dread) finding yourself in. Showing up to a cancelled “Tarts and Vicars” party in a Playboy bunny suit, being caught in embarrassing underwear on a first date or overhearing some awful description of yourself by accident. They are all very plausible and consequently very funny.
It helps that they are happening to a realistic, recognisable and likable central character. There is nothing unobtainable or unbelievable about Bridget Jones. You could argue that everyone knows someone like her and because of that you feel so much more empathy and shame for the character. She is sweet, hopeless but funny and you want her to do well. Zellweger, in a perfect English accent, shines as the character and shows why it is a role she continues to return to.
The support cast reads as a who’s who of British talent. At some point you have Celia Imrie, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent and Sally Phillips. The supporting cast is stolen by the two love-rivals, played by the kings of 90 romantic comedy, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. It feels like they step away from their pigeon-holed roles slightly too. Grant particularly, who is less than likable throughout and feels a million-miles away from the charming buffoon in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The movie-stealing scene between Grant and Firth, finally venting their long-seeded hatred, is great because it doesn’t feel choreographed. When you first see the fight it feels like two “posh blokes” trying to have a scrap and is so much funnier than what you can imagine it’s American counter-part would have been.
The believe-ability doesn’t stop with the fight scenes and awkward situations but manages to continue with the overall love story itself. It plays out well, even if it does touch upon some romantic comedy cliches along the way. You don’t mind though, as the characters sell the story and keep you hooked to the final credits.
Overall, Bridget Jones’ Diary is the height of British romantic comedy quality. A funny, sweet, appealing and recognisable story which shows the social anxiety but charm of British culture. Zellweger’s Jones is a character you can’t help but love but it is Firth and Grant who manage to steal the movie.
Rating – 4
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