Female Filmmaker Friday: Bridget Jones’s Diary, 2001 (dir. Sharon Maguire)
It’s Friday, so it’s time for another edition of Female Filmmaker Friday. Next week I might not post one because of TCMFF, but I think you guys can handle that. This week I’m going to talk about one of my all-time favorite films. There’s a lot to say about Bridget Jones’s Diary and I’m definitely not going to hit all the points; instead I’m just going to write about the aspects and scenes that have stuck with me over the years. I’ve seen this film a million times since it came out in theaters (it was one of the very first DVDs I ever owned) and I’ve also read the book(s). As much as I enjoyed them, this film is my favorite interpretation of the iconic Ms. Jones.
Apparently it took two years to cast the role and many actresses were considered like Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Rachel Weisz and Cameron Diaz. Also at one point Toni Collette was approached, but turned it down because she was currently appearing on Broadway. Which somehow led to the casting of Renée Zellweger. As interesting as some of those castings might have been, I think this was the perfect choice and can’t really imagine anyone else hitting all the right notes.
This opening sequence is so funny and so painful all in one go. First you have her mother forcing her to wear this awful outfit, then you have hot hot hot Colin Firth (in a reindeer jumper!) insulting her (not quite to her face). Of course she decides her life needs a change! Part of what I find interesting about this character is that although she decides she needs a change in life because of the way others treat her, as she starts to try to change her ways, she also comes to embrace who she is, regardless of what others think.
I had to use this screencap. So iconic. I love any book, movie, song where a lady curses. I am a fan of “colorful language” myself, so I always appreciate it when I see women on the big screen just like me. This scene is great because we’ve all fucked up at one point and been caught in a lie and this really encapsulates what that is like.
I love Bridget’s urban family. Shazzer, another swearing lady, is actually based on director Sharon Maguire – who is one of author Helen Fielding’s best friends. If modern life has shown us anything, it’s that the move from rural to urban has shifted our social circles and friends have become equally as important as family. In both the film and book Bridget’s friends are very much supporting characters, but they are so interesting and well introduced, that they could easily have their own films because you can imagine the sort of lives they lead when they’re not supporting Ms. Jones.
Oh man office flirting. The best kind of flirting. I like the instant messaging service they seem to have created for this production that isn’t quite like anything we really have (or maybe it’s something they have in Britain?) In this sequence, I love Maguire’s use of inserts to see the flirtation front and center. When the text fills up the entire screen, as it does in this case, we know that it is a major event for Bridget. We know this is not something that happens to her often and we know how it makes her feel without ever having to see her reaction. Then we do see her reaction (aww yeah see-through top!) and the sequence is complete. I also love when all her friends tell her to just ignore him and then it works beautifully and makes him want her even more. That is the oldest trick in the book, but boy does it work.
This scene still makes me laugh every time. I’ve seen a few films directed by women wherein the main character is getting ready for a date and in the montage she is cleaning while getting dressed. This is so real. This is so what happens. It’s delightful to see it represented on the big screen. Bridget’s dilemma between the sexy black panties and the giant stomach-holding-in panties demonstrates one of the great struggles of modern womanhood. Mostly, I think, it stems from this erotic culture we’ve sold men to make them think women are like lingerie models at all times, then women feel like if they don’t look like a lingerie model under their clothes on a date, they’re going to disappoint their date. This is defused so wonderfully when the pervy Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) likes her giant undies (“Hello, mummy!”). Although, I guess that’s not really saying much about the unfair expectations. Or maybe it’s just a healthy dash of Freud. It’s important to note that, although the book was written by a woman, the screenplay was written by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and A Funeral, etc.) and Andre Davies (who also wrote the fabulous 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; Colin Firth’s performance as Mr. Darcy was what Fielding based the character of Mark Darcy on. I’ll write more on the Firth/Darcy connection in a bit).
Zellweger gained twenty pounds to play Bridget Jones – who in the film is supposed to weigh about 140 or so, which is ten pounds less than the national average in America. It makes me sad. She looks so good and like most of the people walking around living their lives, and yet this is what slightly overweight looks like in cinema. I wish more actresses looked like this. But I digress, this is after her disastrous “oratorical fireworks” when introducing her boss before he introduces the author of Kafka’s Motorbike. She’s been embarrassed by Mark Darcy again (although in a moment wherein although he’s being kind of a shit, it’s also kind of hot and flirtatious.)
The book is a modern interpretation of Pride and Prejudice and when you read it (if you are familiar with P&P), there are some really great literary homages. In the film, the story structure, too, follows that of P&P, so again, if you are familiar with that story, you know how everything is going to turn out. The joy in watching the film, is seeing how the film gets there. Grant is delightful and very out of character, playing a slick cad rather than a lovable doofus.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate this glorious shot? This is fun for everyone, I don’t care who you are. I love how bold Bridget becomes throughout the film, though at first it stems from her relationship with Cleaver. She feels wanted, so she wants herself. This all comes crashing down and like many a broken-hearted person, she turns to overeating and over-drinking and over-exercising. But then she turns it all around, she gets herself a new job (and leaves her old one in a most memorable manner, putting Cleaver firmly in his place) and begins to love herself for herself.
As she begins to challenge herself, more challenges present themselves. I guess I should have screencapped the “bottom the size of Brazil”, but I didn’t think about that until just now. After that disastrous day, she has to go to a horrid dinner with a bunch of smug married people who make her feel like crap for not being married. Enter Mark Darcy, who backs her up with divorce statistics (he himself being divorced). It’s a nice moment of camaraderie. Then we get this moment where he finally reveals how he feels about Bridget to her and she doesn’t know how to take it. Part of what I like about this film (and P&P) is that Darcy falls for Bridget/Elizabeth when she is truly being herself. People have many faces they show the different people they interact with, especially when you talk directly with someone. But when you are observed by someone else, they have the opportunity to see beyond that, and that’s what Darcy does in his observing Bridget/Elizabeth. The dual scenes of the Darcy and Bridget listing each other’s faults make such great bookends for each other’s characters as they develop and move towards each other. Oh, I also wanted to mention again that Firth as Mr. Darcy was Fielding’s inspiration for Mark Darcy and that in the second book Bridget and co. watch the 1995 P&P over and over (especially the scene with him in the lake) and at some point Bridget is supposed to interview Colin Firth. So casting Firth in this role is so deliciously meta.
I just love this scene so much. I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve said this (even when not looking for tuna; which is always because I don’t eat meat). This is after Darcy and Bridget collaborate and create a great piece of journalism. It’s her birthday and for some reason she thinks she can cook. Again, Darcy helps her (although this meal is beyond fixing). This part of the story is a bit problematic in that mostly what is being said is that Bridget is incomplete without Darcy. What would make it a little richer, would be if we could see how Darcy, too, is incomplete without Bridget (like in Rocky when he talks about how he and Adrian fill each other’s gaps). Regardless, this scene is sweet and sincere and the dinner surrounded by all her friends seems like a really great time. It feels like a real birthday party. But, of course, this is a movie so we need action. Enter Cleaver and one of the best cinematic fights in history. At this point, we still only know what Cleaver’s version of what happened between him and Darcy, and although it seems unlikely based on the Darcy we know, we have only this side of the story.
Throughout Bridget’s journey, we also have this side story with her parents. I love that for once, it is the mother that leaves the father. There’s little bits of second-wave feminism sprinkled throughout her mother’s journey (and her father’s too), and their eventual reconciliation feels tender and real. We then get the great final leg of Bridget’s journey – perilous snow driving and all – to get the Darcy and tell him that she was wrong, that she got the whole story about he and Cleaver wrong and that she likes him. Crikey. It’s epic and it’s cute and I wish we had more mad-dashes from women characters like we so often get with men.
Then we get one last misunderstanding, another mad dash in the snow (and panties!) and a reunion/kiss worthy of joining the pantheon of great cinematic final kisses. But nice boys don’t kiss like that! Or do they? (Yes, they fucking do.)
Posted on April 4, 2014, in Female Filmmaker Friday and tagged 2001, Bridget Jones's Diary, Colin Firth, Gemma Jones, Helen Fielding, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Renée Zellweger, Richard Curtis, Sally Phillips, Sharon Maguire. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.