Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary (  )

HERE we go: one of the most hyped films of the year so far is also one of the best.

Have I been conned by the Universal publicity machine? Have I been seduced by the talk that this most English of novels, here given the big bucks treatment, is everything they said it would be, and more?

No, I have not. Walking into Bridget Jones’s Diary, my critic’s antennae twitching with anticipation of a turkey waiting to be stuffed, I came out having been fully entertained courtesy of a fabulous script, three excellent central performances and some memorable gags.

Make no mistake, Bridget Jones’s Diary is very funny indeed.

Based on Helen Fielding’s celebrated novel of female neurosis, angst and the search for true love, and co-written by the author herself, this is one book adaptation that really delivers.

Forget all the talk over the casting of American Renee (Jerry Maguire) Zelwegger and concentrate instead on her power-packed performance and those of co-stars Hugh Grant, playing foul-mouthed, upper-class cad Daniel Cleaver, and Colin Firth, re-visiting his TV hit as Mr Darcy while playing Bridget’s other would-be boyfriend, Mark Darcy.

If you’ve missed all the hype, or are simply unaware of it, then here’s the story. Bridget Jones is an overweight, thirtysomething spinster who lives alone in her compact London flat. By day she works as a lowly PR girl for a rising publishing house, but by night fills her empty evenings watching dodgy ’80s romantic films, drinking too much wine and wondering why Mr Right has never crossed her path.

One day, he does. Arriving late for work one morning, she receives an impressively non-PC e-mail from her boss, Daniel Cleaver, who compliments her on her micro skirt.

Within days they are indulging in a torrid out-of-office affair. Bridget can’t believe her luck. Just when she thought she was over the hill and would be found elderly, single and dead, being eaten by her pet dogs, along comes a smooth-talking rogue to sweep her off her feet.

But there is another man hovering on the horizon… Mark Darcy was Bridget’s neighbour during childhood. Their paths cross again at a cringe-worthy Christmas party and bells start to go off in both their heads.

The scene is set for a battle royal with the frumpy, desperate Bridget stuck in the middle as her would-be beau’s slug it out for her honour…

As modern comedies doe, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a corker. The lines come thick and fast and the situation comedy – cringe-making speeches, a smug couple’s dinner party, a tarts and vicars gathering, a boating lake incident – throws out a string of gems.

Zelwegger is sensational as Bridget, all big bum, bad cooking, malapropisms and desperation, while Hugh Grant gives his career-best performance as the office scoundrel who charms his way into her bed.

His finest line: “I’m just a terrible disaster with a posh voice and a bad character”. I wonder how much they paid him to say that. He relishes the expletive-laced script and revels in the lines given him by Richard Curtis, Andrew Davies and Fielding.

The film’s finest joke, notwithstanding the book launch party attended by the likes of Jeffrey Archer and Salman Rushdie (see it to savour it), is the wink-wink performance of Colin Firth as the hen-pecked, bookish, stiff and dry Darcy.

It will mean more to those who saw his star-making turn in Pride and Prejudice, seven years ago, but even those who missed out will recognise in him a great, previously untapped, comic talent.

Women will love this film, but men will, too. It offers a rare opportunity to tap into the female id while watching three actors firing on all cylinders.  Full marks too for director Sharon Maguire. Not bad for a debut feature.

If Bridget Jones doesn’t pick up a string of awards next year, then I’ll scoff my battered bowler hat. Most significantly, let’s see if Zelwegger’s perfectly timed, hilarious turn is rewarded.

Unmissable.

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