FILM OF THE MONTH

From May 2001
Film Review

Also recommended: Bread and Roses
other April releases

Film Review Hotline
Bridget Jones's Diary
5 Stars, Excellent

Bridget holds forth on her favorite subject: Men

V v v v v v good

STARS: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant,
Colin Firth, Embeth Davidtz,
Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie, Sally Phillips, James Faulkner, Shirley Henderson

DIRECTOR: Sharon Maguire
SCREENPLAY:
Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies
CERTIFICATE: 15
DISTRIBUTOR & Image copyright: UIP
RUNNING TIME: TBC
OPENING DATE (UK): April 13

Bridget Jones's Diary is, you may be surprised to learn, actually better than the best-selling book. Whereas Helen Fielding's treatise on female singledom had a predominantly feminine appeal, Sharon Maguire's début feature broadens the novel's horizons and encapsulates not only a woman's loneliness but mid-life crisis, male bachelorhood and the plight of 21st Century sexual relations.

If this sounds too serious, the film is not. Heavingly funny, tear jerkingly poignant it's no wonder this test screened better than both Four Weddings and Notting Hill. Thirty-something Bridget is (she thinks) overweight, undersexed and consuming inordinate quantities of Chablis and ciggies with her also very single friends Shazza (Phillips), Jude (Henderson) and Tom (Callis). By day she works for publisher Daniel (Grant), by weekend she is subjected to her parents embarrassingly dire attempts at matchmaking.

Her life starts zinging when she woos Daniel with the ever-decreasing size of her skirts. Reading more into their eventual romping than necessary, she's gutted when Daniel lets her down. Back to square one, Bridget is coping with her mother's infatuation with a shopping channel presenter, her dad's (Broadbent) apathy and her own conclusion that her life may be over. Repeated encounters with a Mr Mark Darcy (Firth), however, begin to titillate, his brooding manner being the sun breaking through her sludgy clouds.

The film has a retro feel, which is weird as it hearkens back to the early Nineties. Maguire presents an ensemble piece while making Bridget the fulcrum. Helen Fielding's insistence she direct was clearly a good move, grounded in Maguire's proximity to Fielding's life and life of her alter-ego Bridget (Maguire is actually the real Shazza, one of Bridget's best friends).

Zellweger is a revelation. Her performance is 100 percent, in that she is Bridget. English, plump, vulnerable, prepared to wear costumes two sizes too small in every shot (true) as well as giving us a dose of bone fide cellulite - can you remember any other actress prepared to do that? Hugh Grant is equally impressive, perfectly cast not as a bumbler but a complete cad. The supporting cast is flawless: James Faulkner is hilarious as the randy Uncle Geoffrey, plus cameos from a sporting Salman Rushdie and Honor Blackman who provide great gags.

Far more akin to Pride and Prejudice than the novel - and all the more funny for it - writer Richard Curtis achieves more with his script than in his previous work because the narrative is stronger than a series of comedy sketch ideas. Of course there are flaws, but these are outweighed by other material that entirely wins you over (BJ appearing in a bunny girl outfit at a formal English garden party). And the film is worth seeing for Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in full-blown fight mode alone.

Though Bridget Jones's Diary will make you laugh, cringe and bury your head in your hands, the magic ingredient is that there is also a deep sadness here, an honest depiction of genuine loneliness and isolation. A sense of being thirtysomething and desperate that is simply not funny and, if identified with, will bring tears to the eyes. This is a great film, and one you're guaranteed to rush back to see again.

Lórien Haynes

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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4 Stars; Recommended
Bread and Roses • released April 27

FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE

5 Stars; Excellent
AIMÉE & JAGUAR
A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

4 Stars; Recommended
THE CONTENDER
GIRLFIGHT
A ONE AND A TWO (YI YI)
UNDER THE SAND