Helen Fielding's crap 1996 'novel' purporting to be the diary of an endearing ditsy female who worries about getting a decent boyfriend. Could be the reason she doesn't have one is that she's an idiotic, self-obsessed, calorie-counting, chain-smoking, 30-something airhead. Improbably, at the end she finds her Mr Darcy (like in "Pride and Prejudice"). Salman Rushdie has apparently said that this dreadful book is "a brilliant comic creation. Even men will laugh"--with derision, maybe. An English media novel.

Now also a motion picture released in 2001 by Universal Pictures / Miramax.

Starring a fantastic Renée Zellweger as Bridget, Hugh Grant as her boss and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. Salman Rushdie and Jeffrey Archer appears as cameos in the film. As often with British films, the supporting cast is amazing and the whole production is tight and warm. Book author Helen Fielding was involved with writing the screenplay, and I think that the film follows the book closely, without being too long or pretentious.

This is a film that never ever could have been made in the US, since it shamelessly displays and makes fun of several of the most taboo topics in American society; sexual relations at work and body issues - Renée runs around shamelessly showing most parts of her body in a non-flattering way whilst being not at all shaped like Gwyneth Paltrow or Julia Roberts.

One interesting thing is the choice of Colin Firth as Darcy; not only does he play Mr. Darcy in the film Pride and Prejudice, upon which the Bridget story is loosely based. The Mr Darcy character that Colin played is the model for Mr Darcy in the Bridget books... The "real" Colin Firth also appears in the book sequel, Bridget Jones The Edge Of Reason so how will they solve this for the surely upcoming film sequel ? Will someone else play Colin Firth in the film, since he likely will be playing Mr. Darcy ?

Oh, and Renée is from Texas. She worked hard on the British accent.

"Wait a minute. Nice boys don't kiss like that."

I haven't read the book, but I must say the movie was fantastic! My opinion might have been slightly enhanced by the fact that I saw the late show, 11:35 pm, but once when I thought a movie was the funniest thing ever while drunk on heather cream, I still found it hilarious when sober.

While the character of Bridget embodies most of what made me stop reading Cathy Guisewite's comics (wondering if other women were really like that), she is still very amusing to watch. And the rare chance to see Hugh Grant act like a jerk is worth the cost of admission.

Despite the fact that I predicted the outcome and certain details from the characters' past long before they were revealed, I still fully enjoyed watching the process of getting there.

When I was growing up, there were two prevailing sterotypes of England: Swingin' England, and Poor Old Britain. In the first case, everybody that was anybody was young, carefree, thin, promiscuous, took drugs and drink without problems, and were possessed of innate unflappability that would get them through anything. In the second, Britain was culturally and technologically backward, with a much lower comparative standard of living than America. Bridget Jones's Diary gives the lie to both of these.

Bridget is comparatively younger than most American women would be in her state of mind: as one magazine stated "forty is the new thirty", when women start either panicking that they'll never marry or try to get serious with their lives. But she is not young, doesn't see herself as thin, and actually worries that she's drinking and smoking to excess. (Here again, Britain has different standards: three to four drinks a day are considered "normal", as opposed to America's one.) Her entire attitude towards food seems to be "Ack! I ate something!" In the days of Swinging London, this wouldn't be a problem, despite the fact that the English diet was more fattening then: she'd simply down some "blues" that would kill her appetite. While most "dolly birds" in Swinging London stories would have no trouble bedding down with at least half a dozen men, Bridget has trouble dealing with two, only one of whom she actually has sex with. Unlike most American media depicting singles, she's actually shown alone, rather than constantly in the company of friends, snoopy landlords, or kooky neighbors, who constantly barge in to ask the protagonist what they're thinking.

The other interesting fact is that British life, comparatively speaking, doesn't seem too much different than American living. Britain, after all, used to be the place where they had no central heating (in one fashion magazine from the Seventies, a small, modernistically-styled grate in the bathroom was touted as the ultimate luxury), only three TV stations, two of which were comparable to PBS, offices were Victorian catacombs (with comparable office equipment) and restaurants all seemed convinced that servers with pencil moustaches and a vaguely greasy air were a sign of swank. (Their take on Italian food, at least as late as the early Eighties, seemed particularly surreal.) Bridget's world is one of Macintoshes, her mom is a model on Home Shopping Network and lives in a home that looks like a clone of my parents', and if there is any fireplace in her flat, I can't see it.

For all that, I didn't like the movie either.

NOTE: These comments are entirely based on an experience of watching the movie, not from reading the book.

Though I enjoyed watching the movie, I didn't like anyone in it, particularly the protagonist. It seemed to me that she didn't have any virtues; as Dorian says in the Bridget Jones's Diary node, "she's an idiotic, self-obsessed, calorie-counting, chain-smoking, 30-something airhead." I was most bothered by her self-obsessedness--she's really not nice to anybody, and seems almost exclusively to interact with others as means to her ends. From a Kantian point of view, this is absolutely awful, and, despite not really agreeing with Kant on many issues, I had to back him in this case.

I found these flaws in her character to be both obvious and fundamentally damning. My companions, however (both of whom were female, while I am male), felt quite differently about her. One of them later suggested to me, by way of explanation, that she was able to identify with Bridget's lack of self-confidence, and with the effect that this has on her reactions to the world. She then observed, more to emphasize than to give me information I didn't have already, that I am extremely secure about who I am, and that this trait is sort of rare.

I don't know to what degree my reaction to the movie was based on my level of security, and I also can't comment on the similarity of other men to me in this regard, but I would caution other men to try to be aware of this potential difference between themselves and the women with whom they interact--it seems to me that men are encouraged to question themselves less than women in the cultures with which I am familiar. I think there is a more general point to be made about high-security people of either gender, in that I think such people are not encouraged to empathize with those who are less certain of themselves, but the division along gender lines seems important enough that it's worth emphasizing.

I'd like to invite others with thoughts about how one ought to treat low-self-esteem folks, or insights into their minds, to add writeups about them here or elsewhere. I am interested; I don't quite have enough perspective on this at the moment to make good judgments.

The movie of the book of the newspaper column. The one that spawned the phrases 'Singleton' and 'Smug Married'

I want to say I am a guy. I am married with children, and yes, I guess some people would call me smug. I loved this movie, even though Hollywood calls it a Chick flick, and aimed it at single 20-something women. Loved it? Well, I laughed until I nearly wet my pants. I also cringed and squirmed, but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.

It's not politically correct. It's not serious and it's definitely a no-no to treat the heroine as any kind of serious sociological phenomenon, though (almost) all the single 30-something women I know find something to identify with in the columns, the book, and especially the movie.

The plot

Ever read Pride and Prejudice?

Helen Fielding, English 40-ish author of the original columns published in the UK newspaper, The Independent, and then compiled into a book, said she stole the plot of the Jane Austen novel for BJD. There's our heroine (Bridget) There is a hunk, who turns out to be a cad and a bounder. There is a stuffy rich guy, to whom the heroine takes an instant dislike (and vice versa). The story revolves around the air-headed, but immensely-likeable heroine and how she falls for the bounder, is betrayed and finally discovers that the stuffy guy is the love of her life, only to (almost) lose him.

Bridget is a single 30-something woman employed in publishing. She has a lot of close friends who are also either single 30-something women, or single, 30-something gay men. They drink, party and look for partners, but never quite seem to find them. Bridget starts to keep a diary, reporting her weight, alcohol consumption, number of cigarettes and details of her (lack of) love life. She dreads visiting the smug marrieds and her mother and other relatives, who always seem to ask how her love life is going.

The story revolves around how she meets and starts dating the first guy, how she discovers that he is a scoundrel, and eventually finds happiness with the second. As predictable as any Austen novel, but much, much funnier.

The cast

Bridget Jones is played by Renée Zellweger (You saw her in Jerry Maguire and Me, Myself and Irene) Daniel Cleaver is played by Hugh Grant (you saw him in just about every English film, but especially Four Weddings and Notting Hill) Mark Darcy is played by Colin Firth (BBC viewers saw him in Pride and Prejudice, but movie goers saw him in Shakespeare in Love and Fever Pitch).

The role of Mark Darcy has an interesting history, in that while Fielding was writing the original newspaper columns, the BBC was showing Pride and Prejudice as a TV serialisation. Colin Firth was playing the role of Mr. Darcy in that adaptation, and Fielding wrote him into Bridget Jones. There was little choice but to use Firth in the Bridget Jones movie.Fortunately, he was very happy with the character and its gradual revelation to the audience.

The Texan actress Zellweger was an inspired choice for Jones. As part of her preparations, Zellweger had to add over 10 pounds to her normally-svelte figure.She achieved this through a diet of burgers, chips, Pizza and ice cream. It's a tough job, but someone had to do it! In addition, she had to acquire a convincing English accent. The production company found her a job in a UK publishing company (Picador, based in London), making tea, operating the photocopier, answering phones and so on. Zellweger successfully convinced her co-workers that her real name was Bridget Cavendish, and she lived in the English Home counties.

The full listing (thanks, IMDB)

Director: Sharon Maguire

Running time: 95 minutes

  • Renée Zellweger ...... Bridget Jones
  • Gemma Jones .......... Bridget's Mum (Pam Jones)
  • Celia Imrie ............... Una Alconbury
  • James Faulkner (I) .... Uncle Geoffrey Alconbury
  • Jim Broadbent .......... Bridget's Dad (Colin Jones)
  • Colin Firth ................ Mark Darcy
  • Charmian May .......... Mrs. Darcy
  • Hugh Grant .... .......... Daniel Cleaver
  • Paul Brooke (I) ........ Mr. Kenneth Fitzherbert/'Mr. Tits Pervert'
  • Felicity Montagu ....... Perpetua (as Felicity Montague)
  • Shirley Henderson (I . Jude
  • Sally Phillips ............. Shazzer
  • James Callis .............. Tom
  • Charlie Caine ............ Handsome Stranger
  • Gareth Marks ........... Simon in Marketing
  • John Clegg ............... Elderly Man
  • Salman Rushdie ........ Himself
  • Embeth Davidtz ........ Natasha
  • Matthew Bates (II) ... Kafka Author
  • Jeffrey Archer .......... Himself
  • Patrick Barlow ......... Julian
  • Rebecca Charles (I) . Receptionist
  • Honor Blackman ...... Penny Husbands-Bosworth
  • Dominic McHale ...... Bernard
  • Joan Blackham ......... Shirley
  • Lisa Barbuscia .......... Lara
  • Joseph Alessi ............ Interviewer 1
  • Rhydian Jai-Persad ... Interviewer 2
  • Neil Pearson (I) ........ Richard Finch
  • Paul Ross (III) ......... Mr. Sit Up Britain
  • Stewart Wright ......... Stage Manager
  • Claire Skinner (I) ..... Magda
  • Dolly Wells .............. Woney
  • Mark Lingwood ....... Cosmo
  • Toby Whithouse ....... Alastair
  • David Cann .............. Cameraman
  • Lisa Kay .................... Eleanor Ross Heaney
  • Sulayman Al-Bassam .. Kafir Aghani
  • Donald Douglas (III) ... Mr. Darcy
  • Renu Setna ................. Mr. Ramdas
  • Joshua Manasseh ........ Young Mark
  • Kia O'Hara ................. Young Bridget
  • rest of cast listed alphabetically
  • Emma Amos ............... Pauline (uncredited)
  • Julian Barnes (II) ......... Himself (uncredited)
  • Crispin Bonham-Carter. Greg (uncredited)
  • Max Digby .................. Office worker (uncredited)
  • Ben Peyton .................. Bridegroom (uncredited)
  • Sara Stockbridge ......... Melinda (uncredited)

The soundtrack

  • Songs not included in the soundtrack:
  • Respect - Aretha Franklin
  • Can't Take My Eyes Off You - Andy Williams
  • Woman Trouble - Artful Dodger

Hmm, seems like an addendum is called for

TheLady, as always, adds some geat pointers, and hers is a far more serious critical review than mine. Besides, she noded the whole of P&P, and Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park so she, if anyone should know. Go ahead, read her write-ups. learn from them and upvote them.

There are more similarities between Pride and Prejudice and BJD than at first meet the eye. In the movie in particular, there are many delicate touches that no BBC or Austen fan can miss, and being both I shall take selfish pleasure in listing them:

  • During her first meeting with Darcy, Bridget (Elizabeth) overhears him talk disparagingly of her. This is the real basis of her subsequent dislike.

  • Both heroines have exceedingly silly mothers and sarcastic, intelligent fathers with whom they have a close and equal relationship.

  • Elizabeth is constantly being put in embarassing situations by her inferior or crass relatives - Bridget is repeatedly mortified through her own efforts.

  • A story involving Darcy is being told to the heroine in a misleading light by the person most closely concerned in it - Wickham's "inheritance" in P&P, Daniel's "fiancee" in BJD. The truth of the matter eventually revelas itself to be the exact opposite of that version.

  • An ambitious and jealous woman of apparently greater merit sets herlsef up as rival to Bridget/Elizabeth - the wealthy and malicious Miss Bingley in one book, the successful and brittle Natasha in the other.

  • The first time the hero tells the heroine of his budding affection, he preceeds the confidence with a catalogue of her shortcomings. Bridget takes credit for reacting to this lexicon of flaws much less wrathfully than Eliza Bennet. Then again, she gets some of her own back later.

  • Both heroines see themselves as less than desirable marriage prospects - Elizabeth because of her lack of dowry, Bridget because of age and lack of self confidence. Despite this fact they both refuse a proposal from an undesirable quarter (Elizabeth from Mr. Collins, and Bridget from the contrite Daniel in the latter part of the film).

  • In both cases the hero renders the heroine an important service; Mr. Darcy arranges Wickham's marriage to Lydia, Mark Darcy arranges an exclusive interview with his clients for Bridget.

  • Mark Darcy hails from a nice big stately home in the country, as does his precursor Mr., and is obviously posh to Bridget's (and Elizabeth's) middle class.

  • Although not a plot similarity, it is nevertheless striking that, with such different dialogue and direction to serve as backdrop, Colin Firth manages to deliver an almost exact simulacrum of his preformance as Mr. Darcy. This is a brave and unusual decision for an actor of his standing who cannot afford to be type cast so early in his exposure to the American market. It pays off perfectly in the superb comic value the stuffy Mark adds to the otherwise haywire caleidescope of characters.

I severely disliked the book, thinking it neurotic, unaffectionate and generally ill-natured. But the movie is so good I have officially placed it in my list of Great Jane Austen Spoofs, together with Clueless and the more orthodox Emma.

Bridget Jones's Diary is a video game produced by Namco; a first-person shooter, the player can play either as Bridget Jones or Mark Darcy (an unlockable easter egg lets the player go through level eight, only, as Jones's obnoxious boss Daniel Cleaver). Gameplay bounds around London landmarks, where the player gathers clues to find and rescue their love interest, while shooting zombies, vampires, ridiculously svelte fashion models, and various other foes with a handgun, shotgun, RPG, and ultimately a plasma cannon. At various points throughout each level, the player must weigh themself on a scale, and gets bonuses based on weight lost, or penalties for weight gained; the player must occasionally obtain fuel packs which include alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate bonbons, and self-help books. When achieving a goal, the player will hear various clever quips from the character, lamenting their weight, romantic failures, and the distraction of fighting an undead invasion.

Although praised for the variety of settings, and the quality of voiceover work done by Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth, the game has been sharply criticized for its entirely unnecessary degree of gore and violence, and additional complaints have been leveled as to the difficulty of gameplay, especially on the grueling Vicars and Tarts party level, where it is virtually impossible to avoid killing many innocent party guests (and incurring severe penalties), because they are virtually indistinguishable from the similarly costumed enemies.

Despite these shortcomings, the game is much fun, and well worth tackling the high challenge it presents. I give it three and a half out of five stars.

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