|'What saves both films from going full Curtis are Fielding's source narratives and characters'.|
Written for the screen by Richard Curtis (amongst others), the first two film incarnations of Helen Fielding's eponymous ditzy diarist present the most palatable post-Four Weddings venture into Curtis-Land. Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, were released either side of Curtis' syrup-saturated Christmas carbuncle Love, Actually, and on the surface it's not hard to spot the similarities. Bridget (Renée Zellweger) inhabits a similar fantasy version of Britain built on middle-class philandering and first world problems.
What saves both films from going full Curtis are Fielding's source narratives and characters, albeit slightly more successfully in the first film than the second. The writer famously borrowed the structure for her first book loosely from Pride And Prejudice, the narrative even coming complete with its own Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), named Mark here rather than Fitzwilliam. Taking inspiration from classic literature is something which can lift a film if done well, and thankfully director Sharon Maguire for the most part achieves this in Diary. Enough elements of Jane Austen's novel are retained to provide a satisfying story arc without ever feeling forced or anachronistic.
Whilst the same can't be said for The Edge Of Reason, Beeban Kidron builds on enough of the strengths from Maguire's film to ensure her sequel just about overcomes its more uneven execution. The development of the relationship between Bridget and Mark feels genuine whilst also offering enough humour thanks in no small part to the strong performances from Zellweger and Firth. It's no surprise that the film is at its weakest during the Thailand-set middle act which shifts the focus away from the couple and onto more stereotype-driven comedy.
For all their charm, however, both films are early noughties British rom-coms at heart and as such come with at least some of the baggage of this period of filmmaking. Hugh Grant as love rat Daniel Cleaver does well in the first film offering a pleasing counterpoint to Firth's Mark, but is less successful in lifting the character from the shoehorned caricature he becomes in the sequel. The support elsewhere ranges from Jim Broadbent's satisfyingly understated turn as Bridget's dad, to her friends Jude (Shirley Henderson), Shazza (Sally Phillips) and Tom (James Callis) who could perhaps be forgiven for being ironically one-dimensional in Diary but are further reduced to little more than anonymous window-dressing in The Edge Of Reason.
It's Zellweger who makes both films the enjoyable experiences they ultimately are however. The actress crafts Bridget as both likeable and believable yet obviously flawed and somewhat fantastical, putting in a winning comic performance both verbally and physically, as well as delivering a near-flawless English accent to boot. Zellweger as Bridget allows us to believe that we're seeing everything through her eyes - the occasional detours into her imagination are also welcome - to the point that it's possible to forgive if not ignore the traces of Curtis-Land that linger.
|Bridget Jones's Diary|
|Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason|