Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d

Bridget Jones’s Diary was released in 2001 and is based on the book of the same name by Helen Fielding.  It is one of the funniest books I have ever read and I was very excited to see the movie.  The New York chapter of JASNA asked me to write a review of the film, which I agreed to do.  The review was subsequently published in both the New York and Toronto chapter newsletters and I don’t think they’ll mind if I reprint it here in my own blog:

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Helen Fielding has freely admitted that she took the idea for her best-selling novel directly from her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. There are some obvious similarities between the two — both have heroines with ditzy mothers, fiercely loyal friends, adoring fathers and, most notably, haughty, aloof, rich (and HANDSOME) heroes named Darcy.  The book charmed millions of readers around the world, Janeites and not, and many were dubious about the film.  Not to worry.  The film is, in a word, delightful.

As was the case with another modernization of an Austen novel, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, some scenes from the book were omitted while others were added. But, on the whole, BJD works both as a movie in its own right and as an adaptation.  It works quite well, in fact.

Renee Zellwegger is simply wonderful as Bridget.  Her accent is, as a native Londoner of my acquaintance put it, spot on, and she seems to revel in the part.  Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy is not as dark or brooding as was his Fitzwilliam Darcy, but who cares?  He has a delightful smile and is just adorable as the successful, reserved barrister whose heart is stolen by the free-spirited Bridget.  Hugh Grant may have taken a risk by leaving behind his familiar role as a shy, stammering leading man, but the risk paid off.  He is outstanding as Bridget’s caddish boss, Daniel Cleaver.  Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent are well-cast as Bridget’s parents.  Jones’s journey from suburban housewife to television presenter and back was very well done.  We don’t see as much of Broadbent as I might have liked, but his performance as Jones’s befuddled husband is excellent. I’d read in several places that the leads enjoyed themselves immensely while making this film.  It shows.

You don’t have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy the film, but the screenwriters (Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis) make a point of paying homage to Our Dear Jane.  Part of the fun of watching the film is trying to spot these “P&P-isms.”  For example, I was pleased to see that the firm for which Bridget and Daniel work is called Pemberley Press.  In addition, Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr. Bingley in P&P95) even has a couple of uncredited cameos in the film.

The film does deserve its R-rating because of profanity and some sexual situations, but it is absolutely one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. In short, run, don’t walk, to see Bridget Jones’s Diary.

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I just watched this movie again today, and I still love it to pieces.  I still think that Colin Firth is better as Mark Darcy than as Fitzwilliam Darcy, and I still think this is Hugh Grant’s best role.  Helen Fielding wrote a sequel to BJD, called Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, that is based on Austen’s Persuasion (and which manages to be just as funny as BJD), but (alas) the film is not, and so I will not be discussing it in any columns concerning that novel.

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