Bridget Jones is not a character. She’s the 3 a.m. single-girl id made flesh. (Plus an extra 20 pounds.) She’s the dumbest thing you ever said, the most blinkered, self-involved thought you ever had and the time you woke up swearing never, ever to drink again in your life, ever. She’s also brave, uninhibited, spontaneous and outgoing -- though I’m not sure Renee Zellweger or director Beeban Kidron, who inherited the character fully formed from “Bridget Jones’s Diary” director Sharon Maguire, got that memo. Bridget-in-the-book is a tart-tongued loudmouth with roller-coaster moods and an insecure streak as Homeric as her outlandish self-confidence. Bridget-in-the-movie speaks in a feathery whisper, keeps her eyes downcast, never brushes her hair and has a sense of style that would best be described as punitive.
Poor Bridget. Isn’t it just her luck? First they pick an American to play her, albeit one with a decent accent, then they make her weight a character issue. Zellweger plays Bridget like being Bridget is a flaw. (Wasn’t the point of the character, as she was written by Helen Fielding, that she thought she was fat -- and that when she finally got down to her “ideal” weight her friends thought she was sick?) In “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” there’s something shamed and apologetic about Zellweger’s performance that undercuts what is otherwise a gleefully indulgent satire of chickdom. You get the sense she doesn’t believe her character could ever get the likes of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) to fight over her. (They can’t quite believe it either, though for entirely different reasons.) The movie might be British, but its attitude toward girls is still pure Hollywood.
This is a shame, because the script, written by Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding and Richard Curtis, is wickedly smart and unabashedly silly at the same time (sort of the way you want Bridget to be), and Grant gives what must be his funniest and most sexy performance ever. Why he’s ever played a love-struck puppy dog in the past is anybody’s guess; let’s just hope he never does it again. With his eyebrows raised in tentative apology, and his lower lip petulantly grazing his front teeth, he was born to play the cad.
Firth gives as good as he gets where the tiny gestures are concerned; he’s quietly hilarious as the hypersensitive stuffed shirt whose eyes get wider and upper lip gets stiffer with every act of outrageousness committed by Bridget. His nice guy is as ridiculous and sublimely funny a creation as Grant’s bad boy: This is a boyfriend, after all, who not only folds his underwear before going to bed, he shoves his romantic rival into a fountain. “The Edge of Reason” picks up more or less where “Bridget Jones’s Diary” left off; with Bridget asking, “What happens after you walk off into the sunset?” Bridget and Mark have been ensconced in a swoony relationship for six weeks, which for Bridget, former “love pariah,” feels like a scene straight out of a movie. (Namely, “The Sound of Music,” which provides the imaginary backdrop for her dirndl-covered trot through a green field, swinging a picnic basket.)
The bliss doesn’t last long. While out with her friends one night, a catty acquaintance pelts her with seeds of doubt regarding Mark’s relationship with Rebecca Gillies (Jacinda Barrett), who is “only 22, with legs up to here and Daddy owns half of Australia.” Bridget storms over to his house, climbs up on the roof, slides down the skylight and falls into the bushes before bursting in and discovering that Mark is, in fact, in the middle of a meeting.
It’s not the first time she’s done something like it, nor will it be the last. Bridget has a knack for fulfilling every paranoid worse-case social scenario imaginable. When she calls Mark to tell him about her “shag flashback,” he’s in the middle of a meeting with the Mexican ambassador and she’s on speakerphone. When she confesses her love to him, it’s in front of the Peruvian commerce secretary. She sees a foreign dignitary, basically, and comports herself in the most undignified manner possible.
It’s the rare comedy that lets the girl play the clown, especially when her love interests are played by two guys so attractive that their fight winds up being the most exciting scene in the movie. It’s also one of the funniest: Mark has to catch Daniel before he can try to drown him in 16 inches of water, as Daniel points out throughout his drubbing.
“Bridget Jones” is at its best at its most absurd. Her attempt at skiing in Switzerland is priceless. (She stays on the lift, snowplows down a slalom and slides right into a pharmacy, where she cobbles together some German and English to ask for a pregnancy test.) Bridget’s stint in a Thai prison is better. (How self-involved is she? She has all the inmates on tenterhooks with the tragic story of the end of her relationship with Mark Darcy, a relationship she has to ugly up a bit to compete with her less fortunate cellmates’ bad boyfriend stories.) It takes incarceration in Southeast Asia to make Bridget realize she doesn’t have it so bad. The insight is brief, but clear. We know she’s ridiculous. She knows she’s ridiculous. It’s just too bad she can’t wear it more proudly.
‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’
MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual content
Times guidelines: What else? Sex and swearing.
Renee Zellweger...Bridget Jones
Hugh Grant...Daniel Cleaver
Colin Firth...Mark Darcy
Jacinda Barrett...Rebecca Gillies
Universal Pictures and StudioCanal and Miramax Films present a Working Title Production, released by Universal. Directed by Beeban Kidron. Executive producers Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin. Producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jonathan Cavendish. Screenplay by Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis and Adam Brooks, based on the novel by Fielding. Director of photography Adrian Biddle. Editor Greg Hayden. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams. Production designer Gemma Jackson. Costume designer Jany Temime. Art director Paul Inglis. Set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson. Running time 1 hour, 48 minutes.
In general release.
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By the Numbers
Sweet money makers
Romantic comedies can get a bad rap - they’re often derided as “chick flicks.” But Hollywood knows that a good “date movie” can pull in big bucks at the box office. As “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” opens today, here’s a look at some of the highest grossing romantic comedies to date:
Film (Year released) / Domestic gross (In millions)
“Big Fat Greek Wedding” ('02) / $241
“What Women Want” ('00) / $183
“Pretty Woman” ('90) / $178
“Jerry Maguire” ('96) / $154
“Runaway Bride” ('99) / $152
“As Good As It Gets” ('97) / $149
“Sweet Home Alabama” ('02) / $127
“My Best Friend’s Wedding” ('97) / $127
“Something’s Gotta Give” ('03) / $125
“Notting Hill” ('99) / $116
Source: Nielsen EDI Inc.