Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is 32 years old, 138 pounds, smokes like a chimney, drinks too much and, worst of all, is still single. But, after coping with a particularly nasty hangover following her company Christmas party, she promises to turn over a new leaf in "Bridget Jones's Diary."

Robin's Review: B+

Book adaptations, especially one as narration heavy as Helen Fielding's tome about a single woman in London, are a tough bet to put up on the big screen successfully. It's nice to see the case where a good, entertaining book is translated into a good, entertaining movie and director Sharon McGuire and company give us exactly that in "Bridget Jones's Diary."

The story spans a year in the life of Bridget Jones, a researcher in a publishing house who is constantly reminded by her family and friends that she isn't getting any younger and it's time she found a man and settled down. But this is not quite as easy as it sounds as the pool of eligible single men dwindles with every passing year. When her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), begins to flirt with her via e-mail, she responds in kind and a whirlwind romance ensues.

In the meantime, her mother (Gemma Jones) tries to set her up with a barrister, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), at Christmas, but he thinks that Bridget is an unintelligent young woman who smokes and drinks too much. It doesn't help things when Bridget's mom reminds them that, as a little girl, Bridget used to run around Mark's yard stark naked. As time passes, Miss Jones realizes that Daniel is a two-faced liar and Mark is the one she should be with for the rest of her life. But, will it happen?

You don't have to be a fan of the book to enjoy the movie, but that familiarity does add an interesting dimension. One always has a critical eye when it comes to a movie adapted from a book you enjoyed. "Bridget Jones's Diary" also had some negative publicity over the fact that Texas-born Zellweger was cast to play the quintessentially British Bridget. In both cases, adaptation and actor, there is nothing to fear. The screenplay, by veteran scribes Richard Curtis, Andrew Davies and the author herself, captures the tone of the book perfectly and brings a sweet romantic comedy to the screen. The humor is funny throughout and sometimes bawdy, but there is virtually no nudity and the sex is almost chaste.

Renee Zellweger does a fabulous job as the weight and bad habit conscious Bridget who decides that she will change herself and her life and begins the title diary. Exercise and clean living are the keys to her change and she makes a valiant stab at following through, but romance screws up her plans when she falls for her slimy boss. Zellweger is perfect with her understated London accent and put on weight to flesh out, so to speak, her character. Within minutes of the start of the film, you see her as Bridget. And Zellweger is willing to put, quite literally, her butt on the line, to give a top comedy perf.

Supporting the inspired comic performance by the star are first class showings by Grant, Firth and the rest of the cast. Hugh Grant does a turn from his usual awe-shucks, bumbling nice guy and plays Daniel as a conniver that will say and do anything to get his way. It's a good louse-of-a-guy role and Grant does it justice. Colin Firth is also fine as the stiff-as-a-board Mark who is initially turned off by the outspoken, brazen Bridget. As he gets to know her, you watch his formality soften and he falls, full smit, for the pretty Miss Jones.

Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones provide dimension as Bridget's dad and mom who are in the midst of their own marital crisis when mom leaves dad to pursue a career as a shill for a sleazy salesman on a shopping channel. Their side story helps to flesh out the life of Bridget into something that feels genuine, even in its absurdity. Embeth Davidtz, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips and James Callis, as Bridget's supportive and sometime critical friends, fit the bill.

Production credits are first rate with crisp, clear lensing by Stuart Dryburgh complementing Bridget's costuming, by Rachael Fleming, and production design, by Gemma Jackson.

"Bridget Jones's Diary" is the best date flick to come down the pike in an awfully long time and may well bring in a new generation of fans to Miss Jones and her diary.