Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Gemma Jones, Celia Imrie, James Faulkner, Jim Broadbent, Charmian May, Paul Brooke
Helen Fielding (novel & screenplay), Andrew Davies, Richard Curtis
It's Monday morning, Bridget has woken up with a headache, a hangover and her boss.
Academy Award(R) winner Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant star in a delightful comedy about the ups and downs of modern romance.
Bridget (Zellweger), a busy career woman, decides to turn over a new page in her life by channeling her thoughts, opinions and insecurities into a journal that becomes a hilarious chronicle of her adventures. Soon she becomes the center of attention between a guy who's too good to be true (Grant) and another who's so wrong for her, he could be just right (Colin Firth)! Based on the best-selling book, Bridget Jone's Diary is another acclaimed crowd-pleaser from the hit makers of Four Wedding And A Funeral and Notting Hill.
$10.733 million on 1611 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Runtime: 98 min.
Release Date: 11/9/2004
• The Bridget Phenomenon
• The Young And The Mateless
• Portrait Of The Makeup Artist
• Domestic and International TV Spots
• Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason Theatrical Trailer
• Bridget Jones's Diary Reviews
• A Guide to Bridget Britishism
• Feature Commentary with Director Sharon Maguire
• Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Over 1000 Original Bridget Jones's Diary Columns
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Bridget Jones's Diary: Collector's Series (2001)
Reviewed by Brian Ludovico (December 10, 2004)
Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is a single British woman, living alone in London. She tells us that this year, her thirty-second year of being single, she’s making a number of resolutions to improve herself as a woman, with a couple of specific goals in mind. First, she’s not going to end up alone, “shit-faced” and singing bad easy listening music to herself next New Year’s Eve. She will also sets her sights on finding an appropriately wonderful man to be with, so as to avoid the terrible fate of other unmarried thirty-somethings, which she seems to think is a horrible death, followed by being devoured by dogs.
A couple of key factors work against her. First, she’s not exactly comfortable with her body. She’s not built like a model, weighing a ‘robust’ 136 pounds (my thoughts on that momentarily). More importantly, she’s not exactly suave, and occasionally displays the propensity to put her foot in her mouth. Very early on, at her mother’s annual post-New Year’s party, where she steps all over a divorcee named Mark (Colin Firth) who her mother is trying to fix her up with. The further into the conversation she gets, the worse the things she is saying become. Things go so wrong for Bridget that she overhears Mark describing her as ‘verbally incontinent.’ That’s a pretty reliable sign that the prospects aren’t exactly good.
Fortunately for Bridget, she doesn’t really care what Mark thinks. Her real target is Daniel (Hugh Grant), her boss at the publishing house where she works. Of course, she hasn’t done any favors for her image with him: a drunken desktop rendition of an Eighties love song at the Christmas party didn’t exactly impress. It comes as a pleasant surprise when Daniel starts some suggestive e-mail banter complimenting Bridget on her clothes and her ‘bum.’ After a dinner date and some charming banter, she and Daniel end up embroiled in an affair. Just as Bridget seems to be getting life exactly where she wants it, she discovers Daniel’s true nature: he’s cheating on her. That is, he’s cheating on his fiancée, with Bridget. Does it get worse?
This humiliating development leads her not only to break off the relationship, but also to leave her job at the publishing house. She finds work in television on a breakfast show as a field producer. As time passes, happenstance has her covering a major human rights trial. She seems to have missed a gigantic opportunity that will probably cost her the job, only to be saved by none other than Mark Darcy. He was the attorney who won the big case, and gives her an exclusive interview. This doesn’t just save her job, but also brings her professional acclaim and respect and opens her eyes to the possibility of Mark. Of course, just as she decides she might be interested, Daniel shows back up, promising that his engagement is over and he wants to be with Bridget.
The film continues with Bridget vacillating between wanting to make it work with someone who may not be ready for commitment, and someone whom she’d never really considered. Thankfully it doesn’t ever get too dramatic, sticking to the comic roots of the characters. There is no shortage of laughter throughout the brisk running time, and the movie ends as comedies generally do, on a predictable but nonetheless entertaining note.
The film rests firmly on the performances of its three central characters. Hugh Grant is a different version of the character we’ve come to associate with him. Yes, he’s still a charming, smug, smiling ladies man, but this time, he doesn’t have the heart of gold. He’s described in the featurette as a real ‘cad.’ Grant deserves credit for keeping this character enough of an a-hole for us not to like him, but appealing enough to see why Bridget would want him. Colin Firth, a classically trained actor who has grown into quite a comedic performer, plays Mark as if he relishes the character, aloof and emotionally guarded most of the time, but with a sort of undercurrent of ‘good’ about him.
The real accolades, though, belong to Zellweger. She’s perfect as the title character, right down to her accent. Though she’s already proven that she’s got a firm grip on comedy as an actress, she hadn’t sold me on her ability to carry a starring comedic role before this. Let’s face it - Nurse Betty isn’t exactly a masterpiece. With no Jim Carrey-type of comedic heavyweight to work off of, she positively shines as Bridget. She’s funny, she’s emotional, she’s intelligent and most importantly, she’s likable and easy to root for. Of course, first-time director Sharon Maguire had a hand in all of that, as she shows a directorial wisdom in letting her actors work with their characters.
The problems I had with the movie are generally minor, and one of them is absolutely unavoidable. The inevitable problem is that the main comedic device is the female neurosis that centers on the overemphasis of the need for a man in their lives. This comedic device is the female equivalent of “men think with their genitals.” Neither should be portrayed as often as they are, but at least in Bridget Jones’s Diary, it’s not completely beaten to death. This movie could have been as annoying and ridiculous as Fox’s Ally McBeal, but Maguire has a firm grip on the reins, and keeps the ‘fantasy sequences’ very short and very limited.
The other problem I had: do we really line in a world where 135 pounds is considered ‘fat’? To be honest, I never found Zellweger particularly attractive, at least not until this movie. She actually looks feminine here, natural, and even ‘hot’. Hey, it takes different strokes to move the world, but I don’t go for the ‘drawn, emaciated’ look that she sports in her other films and in the press material for this movie. I think her ‘realistic’ look here - and Zellweger’s apparent comfort with it - contributes to how much I liked the character, even if she went on what had to be a crack-smoking binge to get back down to the weight demonstrated in one of the featurettes.
I deliberated for quite some time when it came to a number to hang on this movie. I laughed out loud several times, even the second time I watched it with the commentary, which is obviously a good indication that it’s an effective comedy. While I did have a couple of problems with the story’s main theme, I really loved the characters and thought the pacing was perfect. With such a pair of ‘names’ in the cast, it would have been easy, particularly for a first time director, to let this movie run long, but it is just right at 100 minutes. It’s a ‘chick flick’ that doesn’t aim below the belt, and gives open-minded male viewer a chance to enjoy it.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+
Bridget Jones’s Diary appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture generally looks great; it’s just not exactly a picture to spout superlatives over.
I can’t say for sure whether this transfer is struck from a different print than the original edition, but it certainly doesn’t make any marked improvements. The original release used a print less than a year old, so it looked fine as it was, and the film isn’t wrought with visual dynamics like explosions and other challenging sequences to wow the viewer. Colors are spot-on perfect and never seem over-saturated or too loud. Fleshtones, pale though they may be - after all they are in England - are consistent. Black depth and shadow detail are as good as a movie like this needs them to be.
There isn’t a lot of criticism to level in the direction of the picture here. I didn’t notice any pixel break up, edge enhancement or image ringing. There’s a bit of a “moiré” effect as we read some of Bridget’s emails from Daniel, but I don’t think that justifies any serious deduction; I’ve never seen this minor problem solved. There’s also an almost unnoticeable layer of very, very fine grain on the frame, but I didn’t notice anything egregious like artifacting or print flaws. Overall, the picture is a fine transfer, just not one that you’ll see playing at your local electronics store to sell units.
If you buy Bridget Jones’s Diary looking for an explosive audio experience to work out your home entertainment system, it’s going to be a real disappointment, and you should probably watch other movies anyway. If you go into the disc knowing what to expect, then it’s a pleasure to listen to.
Though it’s presented in the Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the bulk of the activity lies in the front three speakers, as do the audio tracks on most dialogue driven comedies. The center channel gets most of the action, given that this is a very character-focused type of movie. Bridget does a good amount of narrating, and the center channel creates a good separation between these narrations and actual on-screen action, featuring CD-clarity for both. The lateral speakers help create a medium sized front sound stage, as well. Directional dialogue is used subtly, never in a jarring, ‘turn your head’ sort of way. It’s mainly used for environment creation, as in the numerous gatherings that Bridget attends, like the turkey curry buffet, or the Christmas party at the Darcy’s. This stretching of the front stage is also evident during the launch party for one of the books, when Mr. Fitzherbert speaks into the microphone, which is the only spot on the disc that I picked up any surround channel activity.
Residing in the lateral channels is the warm, jazzy score by Patrick Doyle, which plays fairly large and reminded me of the musical themes to HBO’s Sex and the City. The subwoofer is expectedly dormant throughout. As is the usual with somewhat smaller, more recent comedies, the track is perfectly clear and the music sounds great. There’s just not a lot to talk about from a six-channel standpoint.
When we head to the extras, there’s the return of the nine minute behind the scenes featurette. It opens with an animation much like the scribbling in the title sequence, pledging that it won’t be ‘boring’ or ‘overly self promotional,’ and goes one for two on those promises. At its core, this is fairly basic “EPK” material, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely boring. I was glad to see that Helen Fielding, the author of the columns and best selling book on which the film is based, appears during the piece. First, it shows she approves of the movie itself, and second, she reveals that the story is basically a rip-off of Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t know that Bridget Jones was so popular an English character that casting Texan Zellweger in the role caused an outcry among fans of the books. Director Sharon Maguire also confirms that the whole reason Colin Firth plays Darcy is because the character was written with him in mind. Why? Simple: he played Mr. Darcy in a popular miniseries called… “Pride and Prejudice.”
Also returning from the original edition are seven deleted scenes, unfortunately not available with commentary. They are available as a play-all feature, each with its own introductory title card. The scenes are as follows: “Have You Met Ms. Jones?”, “Bridget Jones, Marketing Genius,” “Dad – not V.G.,” “Phone Message – not V.G.,” “How to Attract a Man,” “The Perfect Relationship” and “And Finally.” They were all cut out, it seems to me, as a consideration of brevity. I personally liked the scene with her dad and the word ‘clitoris.’ I wish Sharon Maguire had recorded something telling us exactly why they were removed.
It’s not as if she didn’t sit and revisit the film; in fact, she did record a feature length director commentary track for the film which also appears on the original edition. It’s one of the better commentary tracks I’ve listened to, and I think it’s directly related to the fact that Maguire is a first time director. She’s not overly impressed with her own work, but she is proud, and she maintains a lightheartedness that would indicate why her movie turned out as funny as it did. She touches on a lot of different areas, such as the difference between British ‘pants’ and American ‘panties’ (none), and how she let actors ad-lib parts of the humor (the panties scene). She comments an awful lot on Zellweger’s willingness to put on weight, to look chubby, etc., which I find disconcerting, but I’ve already visited that issue. Oh, and that’s really Salman Rushdie, if you were wondering.
The first featurette new to this DVD is a seven minute piece called The Young and the Mateless: An Expert’s Guide to Being Single. Most of the material here is from the talking-head type of middle-aged women author and Sex and the City fangirls. Every one of the four main speakers has written some book or another about being single and loving it, the secret of staying unmarried, how great it is to not be married…okay ladies, we get it. This featurette reminded me of Shakespeare: “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Next we have The Bridget Phenomenon. Did I miss something? Was there a Bridget Phenomenon? I hated this featurette because out of its six minute run time, the last four just shamelessly promote Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. It’s obvious what the impetus behind releasing a special edition of this movie is without putting this fine a point on it. Seems to me like Miramax thinks just a bit too much of the impact of their little rom-com that could.
Here’s an interesting one: a five minute piece called Portrait of a Makeup Artist. This is an interview with Graham Johnston, the makeup designer on the film and its sequel. He spends a good bit of time telling us all about the looks, the styles and the challenges of the movies, and even gives out some tips. Great, but when I want to hear from a makeup artist, I’ll check out something like Predator. This guy is basically a highly-paid Macy’s counter girl. Harsh, I know, but this is a DVD, not The Fashion Channel.
Believe it or not, from here, the extras get even less substantial. Miramax includes four television commercials, three at thirty seconds, one at one minute. A Guide to Bridget’s Britishisms is a cute little two and a half minute montage of snippets from the movie, with pauses to give them an American translation. Who needed this? I guess anyone so confused has a tough time with an abstract concept called “context.”
There are five Bridget Jones’s Diary Reviews printed in full length, that are probably just as easily found on the Internet. The authors are Roger Ebert from the Chcago Sun Times, Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, Susan Wlosacayna from USA Today, Carla Meyer from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Nicholas K. Davis from something I’ve never heard of called called “Nick’s Flick Picks”. Don’t get me wrong, this movie got a lot of positive reviews, but putting them on a DVD an expecting people to read them is not only self-important, it’s self-congratulatory.
The disc also includes 100 original Bridget Jones’s Diary newspaper columns. The original edition contained only four, and that was enough. Written of course by Helen Fielding, they ran in the English newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Talk about overkill…buy a book and read that, not your DVDs.
To remove any and all doubt as to why we’ve got a new edition…Miramax includes the Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason Trailer. Sorry, no consideration to this extra as once again, it doesn’t deal with the movie on the disc.
Though it was by no means a mega blockbuster, Bridget Jones’s Diary was an unequivocal success at the box office. It’s not an esoteric female comedy; it’s just plain funny. Sadly, there’s really no reason to purchase the special edition if you’ve already got the original. Sure, the collector’s series disc of the original throws some new extras into the mix, but by that virtue alone doesn’t mean “run out and get.”
The fact remains that at its core, this is a Chick Flick. It’s a good chick flick, with an interesting, well-paced, funny story and authentic, likable characters. The target market for this disc isn’t exactly the one that’s into collecting DVD’s, and thereby susceptible to double dips with obscure extras. For many consumers this is probably a perfect Friday night rental, and I would have no problem referring this as a purchase to fans of good stories, good characters, and good natured laughs. It’s about as enjoyable for men as Chick Flicks get, and that’s saying something. It just didn’t need a special edition about as much as it needed a sequel.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2352 Stars|| Number of Votes: 17|