It seems Miramax has now officially given up any pretenses of distributing challenging films, and is now quite happy to serve up an endless array of trite romantic comedies set in foreign countries. After the worthless Chocolat, we now have Bridget Jones's Diary, a predictable bit of fluff with a terminal case of the cutes.
There was apparently a bit of a "scandal" (in the People Magazine sense) about the casting of skinny Texan Renée Zellweger as the chubby London singleton of the title, and I'm a bit embarrassed for the British that they should even care. It's Bridget Jones, for crying out loud, not Virginia Woolf or Queen Elizabeth. If she's the current standard-bearer for English womanhood, then the UK should start cranking out some better books.
Anyway, our poor Bridget is in a quandary: she's got the hots for her sexy boss (Hugh Grant) but also consistently bumps into her old childhood nemesis (Colin Firth), with whom there is some weird "He's such a jerk, I hate him!" attraction going on as well. What to do? Do we care? We do not.
Director Maguire at least has good comic timing, not so much with her cast as with her editor: the film's biggest laughs all come from well-cut sight gags. However, Maguire gets a black mark for her painfully obvious music choices: when a TV lothario romances Bridget's mom, Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" plays on the soundtrack, because Bridget's mom is a Mrs. Jones, and the song's about a guy who makes the moves on a Mrs. Jones, get it? Next, when Bridget struts away from her dead end job, we hear Aretha Franklin's "Respect", because guess what: Bridget just wants a little respect. Ugh.
The lead role was reportedly intended for Kate Winslet, who ducked out due to pregnancy. In her place is the harmless Zellweger, who is not unlikable but brings little to the film. She's one of those actresses that leaves me wondering just how she became a star. Hugh Grant plays it straight here, which makes him rather dull. But I will give this movie some kudos for the Colin Firth character: it's refreshing to see a constipated dork presented as a genuine catch. Usually the "second choice boyfriend" is a super-cute sweetheart that any woman would be crazy to turn down. That Bridget should have feelings for such a joyless prig is practically revolutionary. There's someone for everyone, after all.