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Miramax Pictures presents

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

"Look, are you and Cosmo in this together? You seem to go out of your way to make me feel like a complete idiot every time I see you. And you really needn't bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway."- Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger)

Stars: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
Director: Sharon Maguire

MPAA Rating: R for language and some strong sexuality
Run Time: 01h:37m:55s
Release Date: 2004-11-09
Genre: romantic comedy

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B B

 

DVD Review

No, the romantic comedy hasn't gone away—it's just put on a couple of pounds, grabbed a pack of Dunhills and a bottle of Cabernet, and hopped across the pond. Bridget Jones's Diary smartly reinvigorates the genre; in many respects, it's a very conventional movie in its storytelling style, but it's full of enough new truths and has such a sharply drawn title character that it's easy to see why, on page and on screen, it became such a cultural phenomenon. This isn't a movie that breaks a whole lot of cinematic ground, but it's become something of a cultural lodestone, especially in bringing to the screen a significant percentage of the moviegoing audience who felt as if they were underrepresented: that is, professional young single women, managing the pressures of work, love, and sex in the city.

Renée Zellweger, the pride of Texas, plays Londoner Bridget Jones, and she earns high marks all around—kudos to her and her dialect coach for the consistency of her convincing accent, and to her dietician as well. Bridget is frankly carrying more than few extra pounds, and Zellweger gained the appropriate amount of weight to play the role—this is a character who doesn't shy away from another drink, or from eating Ben & Jerry's right out of the carton, and who would rather grab another smoke than a quick workout at the gym. She's not unlike a good number of us in that respect, and one of the tensions in Bridget's life is between being candid about her own body, and tyrannized by the insanely waifish, malnourished models held up as paragons of beauty. She's a terrific and winning character—always a little jaundiced about whatever comes her way, not afraid to take risks, and suffering more than her share of very public embarrassments; you need not be a single woman in London in your early 30s to share in her joys and miseries.

As it turns out, she becomes the linchpin of a love triangle unrivaled since Katherine Hepburn had to choose between James Stewart and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story. On the one hand, there's Daniel Cleaver, her dashing, priapic boss; on the other, there's Mark Darcy, a barrister with less swagger but a better heart. Zellweger is well matched by her two leading men—as Daniel, Hugh Grant is at once winning and scummy, the sort of guy who scores with a lot of women, then treats them like dirt and moves on. (He's the guy that the rest of us guys hate.) In some respects this is the definitive Hugh Grant performance; he shares that rare quality with very few other actors (Alec Baldwin comes to mind), in that he's not bashful about taking a role that's going to make the audience detest him.

As Darcy, Colin Firth doesn't have nearly as much flash, but he's charming in a befuddled sort of way, repeatedly finding himself undone by encounters with Hurricane Bridget. Firth's hangdog quality couldn't be more winning, and we're rooting for him and Bridget to get together, which is about all you can ask for in a movie like this. Director Sharon Maguire presides gently over the affair, and she's got an especially keen ear for music—she doesn't shy away from corny pop songs, ranging from All By Myself to It's Raining Men. Some bits of the movie feel like comic bits that don't contribute to the story, but are holdovers from the source material—Bridget's disasters in the kitchen fit in here. But adding breadth and depth to the story are Bridget's parents—Jim Broadbent is so sweet and befuddled as Bridget's heartbroken father, whose wife has left him for a man with skin the color of a tangerine, who shills cubic zirconium on a home shopping channel. You can't ever be sure where true love is going to come from, and one of the many lovely things about this movie is that the title character is not a hopeless romantic, but a hopeful one.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: There are occasional flecks and discolorations in the image, but overall the transfer is a good and saturated one; London, where most of the movie takes place, has never looked more romantic.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The dynamics are impressive on the 5.1 track; the only shortcoming with this track is that the frequent pop music cues are just crazy loud, for out of kilter with the rest of what you're hearing. It's always fine to hear Aretha Franklin sing Respect, but not necessarily at this volume.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
4 TV Spots/Teasers
7 Deleted Scenes
5 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Sharon Maguire
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. original Bridget Jones newspaper columns
  2. reviews of the film
Extras Review: This special edition supersedes a previous release, and it's the abundance of extras that set this new disc apart from its predecessor. It features the same commentary track, from director Sharon Maguire, who seems very nice, but doesn't have a whole lot to say; it's a lot of the usual stuff about locations and shooting schedules, though she's at her best on casting, particularly about her Texan leading lady. The Young and the Mateless (07m:39s) is about Bridget's voice being previously underrepresented; among those singing her praises are Linda Wells, editor of Allure, and Jenny Bicks, a writer on Sex and the City. Bridget's creator, novelist Helen Fielding, is on hand to discuss The Bridget Phenomenon (06m:35s), as are Maguire and principal members of the cast; it's odd to see Zellweger on the set speaking in her own voice, and a good chunk of this featurette is devoted to The Edge of Reason, currently playing at a theater near you.

In a behind-the-scenes featurette (09m:37s), Fielding is candid about ripping off the plot from Pride and Prejudice—if you're going to steal, steal from the best. Firth in fact played Mr. Darcy in a widely admired TV version of Jane Austen's novel, and his performance was frankly the inspiration for the character he ended up playing here. Portrait of the Make-Up Artist (05m:02s) is a visit with Graham Johnston, who worked on both films; there's one glaring editing error in this one, though, for when Johnston talks about Lara, an American colleague and sometime girlfriend of Daniel's, we're shown clips not of her, but of Natasha, Mark's co-worker and intended.

Stop. Collaborate, and listen: the highlight of a package (11m:43s) of seven deleted scenes is undoubtedly a bit in which Bridget plays hard to get, to the dulcet tones of Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby. You'll also find nearly a hundred of Helen Fielding's Bridget columns, which ran in The Independent of London between 1995 and 1998; five reviews from the theatrical release of the picture, all of which are glowing; and a guide to Britishisms (02m:19s) in the feature, ranging from "jumper" to "loo," all of which are abundantly clear in context, even if you've never been where they drive on the left side of the road.

Extras Grade: B
 

Final Comments

It's just about impossible not to be charmed by Bridget Jones, and her story here is a sturdy, classically constructed romantic comedy. The three winning lead performances are reason enough to watch, and the grab bag of extras will keep you sated until the sequel comes out on DVD, too.

Jon Danziger 2004-11-30