I remember when I first watched ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’. It was the early Noughties, I’d have been just shy of my teens, but I instantly felt empowered seeing a female protagonist – and one who I immediately connected to.
Intelligent, career driven (albeit clumsily so), compassionate and good, independent, comfortable and proud about her sexuality, hopeless romantic, and with a similar body shape to my own – growing up, I didn’t see too much of that on-screen. I don’t think many of us can say we did..
I was hooked, this realisation dawned that this fictional woman was someone who I saw a lot of myself in, someone who was an encouragement to follow my dreams and my heart. We’re all impressionable at that age, and to find this character was held this influence over me and especially the woman I’ve become today.
Fast forward 12 years to 2016, and it’s September. Autumn has landed, and with it the third instalment of the Bridget Jones’ tale.
Bridget’s that bit older, largely more successful, no less clumsy; deep down she’s the classic Bridget portrayed so well before, and written so well in Helen Fielding’s books.
There’s a major twist at the start which I wasn’t expecting (nor had anyone else judging by the gasps that were heard in the packed screening), we were all sat up in our seats with any preconceptions for what to expecting thrown out of the rhetorical window. As far as rom-coms go, it was without a doubt the most off-kilter start..
‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’ sees Bridget’s career at an all-time high as a television producer, but heartbreakingly her social life is stalling – her love life has thrown her back into singledom, her best friends (the gloriously thrilling return of Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips and James Callis) have their own commitments, while her mother is still questioning Bridget’s lack of children and husband.
Seeking adventure with newsreader and protegé-of-sorts Miranda, the pair attend a music festival to celebrate their empowering single life – a sequence which brings typical Bridget-clumsiness into the mix, but also introduces Patrick Dempsey’s character, Jack.
There are criticisms that Baby is demeaning to women, defining Bridget as a woman by her romantic relationships – or lack thereof. I’d understand the criticism usually, but it seems that naysayers have forgotten at its core Bridget Jones, as a franchise, revolves around love and relationships, the ups and downs of both the platonic and romantic – aspects of our lives that we all go through in our lives. But it’s more than that; the franchise focuses on Bridget, how she feels, her dreams and her desires, there’s a overarching feeling of strength and passion – take her career, for example. In spite of the hurdles she faces, she’s fiercely independent, intelligent, and works hard for her career – she’s admirable to various people because of these traits, her love life is just one aspect of her personality. Perhaps it’s the key focus, but of course it should be when the film is a rom-com. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see her being defined solely by her romantic status.
Zellweger – despite the press’ criticism of her appearance being more brutal and prevalent than ever – pitched her performance perfectly. The dry delivery as strong as it was in ‘Diary’ and ‘Edge of Reason’ , she teamed it extraordinarily with a real sense of vulnerability. Bridget only ever wants to do the ‘right’ thing, and make people happy – yet finds herself in a situation wherein somebody is destined for disappointment and upset, the hurt is etched into Renee’s face. It’s fantastic to see Zellweger back on the silver screen, it’s easy to forget how naturally charismatic she is, her talent should be far louder than anything derogatory about her appearance.
Zellweger and Firth’s chemistry hasn’t ebbed; the power in its warmth enough to melt the coldest of hearts (I should know, it melted mine), it’s difficult to not root for them to get their happy-ever-after.
Patrick Dempsey replaces Hugh Grant as the ‘loveable rogue’ romantic lead; I always liked him in ‘Greys Anatomy’, but I had initial concerns how he’d gel with Renee and Colin, whether he had the comedic chops, or if he’d be enough to stop audiences thinking ‘I miss Hugh Grant’. Luckily, those fears were unfounded.
Dempsey seems to be a complete natural with comedy timing, bouncing off Renee and Colin’s dry delivery with a charming ease and confidence, to the extent you wouldn’t question he was ‘the new boy’.
Applause must also be given to Sarah Solemani, as Bridget’s colleague Miranda; Solemani steals nearly every scene she’s in, it’s not hard to see why critics are expecting great things from her. A witty and charismatic performance that shines, and must – if there’s any justice in the world – put Solemani on course for stardom.
When you wait so long for a story to continue, you often set yourself up for disappointment – but that couldn’t be further from the truth with Bridget Jones’ Baby. Laughter roared in my cinema screening at every joke and slapstick moment, a sense of familiarity felt by us all of not just “That’s classic Bridget!” but also “I’ve been there” or “I’d definitely do that..”; tears flowed for many of us (particularly with the special nods to previous films, cleverly written for the long-term fans), a story had tugged at our heartstrings for wonderfully that it evoked raw emotions of being in similar situations – and I think that’s why so many of us fell in love with Bridget all those years ago.
She resembles everyone, whether in a small way or a huge way, we’re all Bridget Jones.
To Bridget Jones, who we love. Just as she is.