BRIDGET JONES’S BABY (2016)
Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Sally Phillips, James Callis, Sarah Solemani, Celia Imrie, Shirley Henderson, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Kate O’Flynn, Ben Willbond, Agni Scott, Enzo Cilenti, Emma Thompson and Ed Sheeran.
Screenplay by Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson.
Directed by Sharon Maguire.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 122 minutes. Rated R.
Renée Zellweger is back in Bridget Jones’s Baby, which I suppose is a nice thing. After all, for an actress who about a decade ago used to be a fairly regular Oscar nominee, this is her first movie in six years, since the barely remembered My Own Love Song. She will be following close on the heels of Bridget Jones’s Baby with the Keanu Reeves thriller The Whole Truth, so good for her for this little mini-spurt of activity.
Bridget Jones’s Baby proves her to be a welcome and missed presence; a sweet, charming and eccentric talent. She looks very good and fit, certainly an actress of a certain age. Flashbacks to earlier episodes of this series show her to be both significantly thinner, but also naturally older. However, after the “plastic surgery” tabloid gossip of a few years ago, where it was suggested that she had so much work as to make her virtually unrecognizable, she looks very much the same (just older) here, putting to rest a lot of the sillier rumors.
Still, for as much as it is a delight to have Renée Zellweger back, one can’t help but wonder who really was waiting for the return of Bridget Jones, her semi-popular “singleton” character. The first film about Jones, the 2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary, based upon the then-hit novel by Helen Fielding, was a sweet and charming romantic comedy. It’s hard to remember now, but casting the American actress Zellweger as this iconic British role was rather controversial, but she hit the ground running and converted the doubters.
She played a perpetually single British woman, looking for professional validation and love in modern London, who eventually gets involved in a love triangle with her gorgeous cad of a boss (Hugh Grant), and her repressed but gorgeous childhood friend Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Yes, Firth’s character sharing a last name with the romantic lead of Pride and Prejudice was intentional, the movie was sort of a modernization of that tale and the Jane Austen book plays a big role in the plot.
Bridget Jones’s Diary was, deservedly so, a rather large hit. Therefore it was pretty inevitable that a sequel would come: the 2004 film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. (It was based on Fielding’s follow-up novel.) How do we put this nicely? It was a disappointment. A huge disappointment.
First of all, it essentially told the same story. After all the hard work that Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy did to find true love and happiness together in the first film, the second movie tears them apart again, just so that we can relive the love triangle again, and eventually find out that, yes, they were right in the end of the first film, Jones and Darcy belong together. The Edge of Reason made Jones’ character much less likable, a clingy, desperate woman, and it also luxuriated in humiliating its heroine, regularly dowsing her with water or mud or shit just in search of a mean-spirited laugh.
The movie was a massive failure, critically and in terms of box office. Now, twelve years later, who has even given the series a thought in at least a decade? (Well, other than Zellweger’s agent?) What possible reason could there be to go back to that well and turn the Bridget Jones movies into a trilogy? Particularly since they are telling the same damned story yet again? And adding a (shudder) baby to the mix?
Despite the fact that Bridget and Mr. Darcy have proclaimed true love at the end of the last two films, Bridget Jones’s Baby starts with our heroine as desperately single as ever. In case you doubted it, she is sitting alone on her birthday in her living room in the first scene, eating a cupcake with a single candle on it, listening to Celine Dion’s version of “All By Myself.”
Of course, it’s only a matter of time that Mark Darcy will come back into her life, and she will be in the middle of yet another love triangle because another guy will show up at the exact same time. It’s a different other guy this time around. They killed off Hugh Grant’s character of Daniel early on here to a private plane crash, leading to a particularly clever joke about mourning Eastern European models, but I have the feeling that was more because Grant did not feel there was anywhere else to go with this character.
When Bridget sees Darcy at Daniel’s funeral, he is there with his wife. Her girlfriends insist she go out and get laid, just move on with her life once and for all. She goes against her normal instincts and ends up having a one-night-stand with a gorgeous billionaire (Patrick Dempsey) self-help book guru. Then she runs into Darcy again at a friends’ daughter’s christening, and learns that he is getting a divorce. They fall into bed together, but she realizes it is self-destructive and leaves Darcy behind, too.
Flash forward a few months, she learns that she is pregnant and not sure which man is the father. She has to tell them both, and both want to be involved in the pregnancy, birth and raising of the child. Faster than you can say “wacky hijinks,” we’re back into the Bridget Jones love triangle formula yet again.
In fairness, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a significant improvement over The Edge of Reason. I’m still not sure it is necessary, but at least Bridget is treated with more respect this time around. The writing is cleverer, Bridget has actually become rather competent at her work, the dumb slapstick gags are kept to a minimum (she only falls into mud in a white outfit once here), and the film as a whole is much more good natured. Luckily the baby itself is not born until the film’s climax, so we don’t have to sit through a whole series of lame gags with Bridget having to change nappies and getting spit up on.
Still, Dempsey’s character is a pale imitation of Grant’s. Never for a moment do we believe that he will win Bridget’s heart away from Mr. Darcy. At the same time, the first two films have shown us that their true love is something of a mirage: every time they find true love it is erased by the next film.
Which, again, leads us to wonder what is the point in making Bridget Jones’s Baby? I will say, if they leave the story here, most people will have more goodwill towards the series than they did with the bitter aftertaste of The Edge of Reason. I just pray that we don’t have to slog through yet another love triangle when the kid hits university age.
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 16, 2016.