Bridget Jones is a changed woman. Independent and informed. A career minded 40-something who could hold her own about Chechnya AND make Smurf free soup. Her reunion with Bridget Jones’s Diary director Sharon Maguire has put roses in her cheeks, quick wit in her words and The Edge of Reason (almost) entirely out of our minds.
Bridget (Renée Zellweger) returns to us on her birthday, pyjama-clad, crowned by that instantly recognisable diary scrawl and crooning to a familiar tune. But she and this delightful movie refuse to conform to any of the old norms. She cuts short her own pity party with a burst of lip synching perfection and leaves us in little doubt that the new Bridget Jones’s glass is always
Which comes in handy when life gets complex. Bridget wouldn’t be Bridget without a love life conundrum and her latest is a doozy. A genuine case of head vs. heart, when an old flame resurfaces days after the spark of potential has been ignited with someone new. Daniel Cleaver’s cad by numbers is mercifully absent, cut down in his modelizing prime by a combination of Hugh Grant’s reticence and good common sense.
Squeezing a third Darcy/Cleaver dust up into the series would undoubtedly have required equivalent contortions to Bridget body popping her baby bump into skinny jeans. A passive aggressive war of manners seems a more dignified way forward for combative men of a certain age. Thus, instead of innuendo, GCSE English Lit poetry, and granny pant gags, we are gifted with…McDreamy!
Patrick Dempsey is in full charm offensive as sexy statistician/thinking woman’s love guru Jack. Tickled by a muddy meet cute with our Bridge (granting her a Cinderella moment and us the guilty pleasure of an Enchanted flashback), Jack is swiftly snagged in the joyous chaos of her life by a dolphin friendly prophylactic. He is everything Darcy is not. And a billionaire to boot. Yet, endearingly, Bridget’s feelings for either man are entirely eclipsed by her love for her child.
By basing the film on Helen Fielding’s columns rather than Mad About the Boy (the latest Bridget novel) audiences are allowed to enjoy a third helping of Mark Darcy and spared a stale school gate saga. Writers Emma Thompson, Dan Mazur, and Fielding herself, have an absolute ball showcasing a more thoughtful, successful Bridget – while festooning the film with a confetti of nostalgia. Evading melodrama, Maguire and her writers opt instead for a heartwarming walk beside Bridget on her maternity journey.
New priorities have seen Shazzer, Jude and Tom recede from her life but Bridget’s colleague, news anchor Miranda (Sarah Solemani, Him and Her), stands in as a terrific friend surrogate in the absence of Bridget’s trusty chums. Emma Thompson also offers hilarious straight talking support as pragmatic obstetrician Dr. Rawlings. Mum (Gemma Jones), Dad (Jim Broadbent), and boss Richard (Neil Pearson), bob up as îles flottantes in the narrative – deliciously indulgent and insubstantial – but newcomers Miranda and Dr. Rawlings are true assets to the movie.
There are reservations amidst our effusive praise. Bridget occupies a bafflingly white world – inexcusable in 2016 – neatly reminding us that being retro isn’t always fabulous, darling. A hipster takeover at the TV station is under explored. And an ageing Mr Darcy, carrying the disappointments of two failed marriages, his infamous pride, and infuriating intractability, doesn’t seem quite such a prize anymore.
Though Jane Austen’s Persuasion was a template for The Edge of Reason there are undeniable echoes of Anne Elliot’s tale in Bridget Jones’s Baby too. Not least in the sneaking suspicion that, after so many years of hurt and confusion, Bridget’s happily ever after has come at too great a cost. Even as their chemistry sputters back to life a cynical voice disloyally wonders whether Miss Jones doesn’t deserve better…
One thing Bridget Jones doesn’t lack is personality. Zellweger returns to Nurse Betty form with a winning performance. She has an infectious affection for and affinity with the character and her gift for physical comedy (showcased in a mad hospital dash) is undeniable. Her story may not be ground breaking, aspirational or even plausible but with Jilly Cooper japes, lashings of emotional fuckwittery, and a good old love triangle, we are not ashamed to say that we love Bridget just the way she is.
Bridget Jones’s Baby opens across the UK on 16th September