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Bridget Jones' Diary
Renee Zellwegger has found her breakthrough role. After bursting on the scene in Jerry Maguire, she meandered from small dramas (A Price Above Rubies) to very bad comedies (Me, Myself and Irene) to a good role in a mixed up movie (Nurse Betty). However, Bridget Jones' Diary will be the movie that makes her a major star.
Zellwegger stars as the British title character (based on a wildly popular series of British books) who drinks too much, smokes too much and (according to her, but I severely disagree, more on this later) weighs too much. Bridget is a single working gal who spends her days pining away for the wrong man (her nefarious cad/womanizer boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant)), and her nights downing a few too many at the pub with her pals. She wants a man in her life, but it just isn't happening.
Finally, on January 1, Bridget resolves to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, stop pining away for Mr. Wrong, find a sensible guy, and chronicle her year in a diary. She fully expects to succeed, even though she is horrible at keeping resolutions, but the plan quickly falls apart. Bridget starts fooling around with her boss.
Will Bridget find true love with Daniel?
Zellwegger shows that she is a great comedic talent with good delivery, strong physical comedic ability, and a (and don't say I am going too far) Chaplinesque ability to create a character that we laugh at and cry with. Like Charlie Chaplin or John Candy, Zellwegger is able to make us laugh at the constant stream of awkward moments, bad choice of words and silliness, while also showing us the character's vulnerable side.
Many would lead us to believe that Renee Zellwegger's "sacrifice" to gain 30 pounds for Bridget Jones' Diary is equal to DeNiro's transformation in Raging Bull. However, something is amiss when all of Hollywood is set on its ear by a woman who "balloons" up to 125 or 135 pounds to play a character. Every story about Bridget Jones brings further amazement at her weight gain from the interviewers and authors. As I write this review, David Letterman is obsessed with the physical transformation instead of the great acting job by Zellwegger. By eating three meals a day, she became a real woman. In a town obsessed with size zero stick figures, a real, curvy, sexy woman is "too fat". And we wonder why millions of girls across America starve themselves or worse. I think she looks very sexy in this movie and her physical appearance gives the character a softer, more lovable side. Zellwegger could have become a hero to women across the country if she stayed at or near this weight, but societal pressure forced her to drop back down to 105 pounds. It's sad that Ally McBeal has replaced Marylin Monroe as the ideal sex symbol.
Zellwegger's performance also will make the movie's main controversy go away. When cast as Bridget Jones, instead of Brits Emily Watson, Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson, most British tabloids were very upset that their beloved character would be portrayed by a girl from Texas. Instead of letting the backlash destroy her spirit, Zellwegger moved to London and secretly worked in a publishing house like her character, so she could understand the British culture better before filming began in London.
Others in the film are just window dressing. Grant is fine as the cad. We haven't had the chance to see him play a role like this, and he doesn't disappoint. However, he doesn't shine either. Grant gives a monotonous performance with his character not showing much signs of anything other than randiness and self-interest. I was much more impressed by Colin Firth as barrister Mark Darcy.
Firth, known to audiences as Lord Jeremy in Shakespeare in Love, is the third leg in a fairly predictable love triangle. Set up with Bridget on January 1, Mark seems to show up at all the wrong times in Bridget's life. They develop an intense hate for each other, however, well, you can see where this is going.
The script doesn't provide many surprise plot twists, and even gets a little too cute as the film moves to resolution, however, the dialogue is good and the actors have enough material to make the film work. I might not be the target demographic for Bridget Jones' Diary, but it was a fun, sweet diversion on a rainy spring night. Grade: B
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