Keeping up with the Jones

Even if you avoided the book, Bridget Jones's film diary is worth a peek.

Jan Macvarish

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Having steered clear of Bridget Jones in book form I had little inclination to witness her screen debut.

There are probably few films I have been to see that I was less inclined to like: a moaning single thirtysomething ‘girl’, hanging out drinking Chardonnay with her similarly single chums, seemed like a sad case to me. (But then, as Ms Jones herself might argue, this preconception was perhaps reinforced by mid-pregnancy smugness.)

But in the end, I laughed out loud throughout the film. Renee Zellweger plays Bridget with amazing comic skill – much of it good old slapstick, such as the moment when Bridget makes her debut as a cable TV presenter, descending a fire-station pole, arse first, 20 denier black nylons and thong in screen-filling glory.

Bridget’s most attractive feature is undoubtedly her wit. She may be unworldly but her understated ability for repartee, in particular with her remarkably sexy boss – played by a remarkably sexy Hugh Grant – means she is never a pathetic cry-baby, but a believably appealing object for the lust and affection of her two suitors, and an equal player in the game of love.

Over a quick Chinese, the post-viewing conversation could come up with no other actress, British or American, who could have played the role without remaining an unconvincing screen beauty playing at being a slightly frumpy 32-year old, or turning Bridget into a kooky-but-cute Meg Ryan-type. Much has been said about Zellweger’s weight gain – usually bitchy comments about her remarks that being a size 12 was sheer hell. Yet it is refreshing to see a Hollywood actress prepared to look less than her best – parading around in enormous knickers with cellulite on show, or inappropriately squeezed into a bunny-girl costume at a country barbecue.

Besides Zellweger, the strength of the film is its visualisation of some of what I am told are the book’s comic moments. Having cringed through Four Weddings and avoided Notting Hill I was surprised that Richard Curtis could create such a tight-reined, well-worded comedy. Perhaps he has Helen Fielding to thank, for she is credited as screenplay writer and executive producer. There is none of the London-lifestyle nonsense of recent Brit-flicks so obviously aimed at America, but a lot of the naffness of English life and the unsophisticated oafishness of many of us Brits.

There is nothing profound to the film, but it is funny, well-scripted, well-acted and pleasantly surprising. Don’t be put off by the coy-looking Bridget in the posters – she’s actually a bit of an unlikely fox, albeit a gauche one in tummy-control knickers.

Read on:

A spicy read? by Jennie Bristow
Chick Lit to Smith Lit by Jennie Bristow
Jan Macvarish is founder and director of The Maverick Club (

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