EJ Stedman sends you to see the latest installment of the Bridget Jones saga
Bridget Jones’s Baby is all the heteronormative, farcical, slapstick fun that we love without the crushing representations of female neuroses that we recognise. I can’t work out whether that’s a win (a nuanced female character who’s actually happy with herself?! Say whaaaat!) or if it’s a bit of a loss. She’s all slim and smoke-free and successful. She’s a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man.
But isn’t that what we all loved about Bridget, as played for the third time by Renée Zellweger? She was doing that obsessive striving-for-perfection thing that lots of women try really, really hard to keep everyone from knowing about. We are meant to be perfect without anyone knowing that we’re trying and it was always abundantly clear that Bridget was trying really, really hard. That’s why it was funny.
Mark Darcy, however, as played here again by Colin Firth, has always been perfect. He is Rochester without the wife in the attic. He is Heathcliff without the inconvenience of being horrible to literally everyone all the time. He’s got the unconditional love and passion for the heroine that we all want, plus all that nice cash and the super fancy house that we pretend we don’t. He is sold as the perfect man, and it’s absolutely no wonder we’re all in love with him. He’s totally unflappable. And, like, really fit.
And it’s Mark’s perceived perfection that makes Bridget’s imperfection so, so relatable. She’s a “verbally incontinent spinster” around him and he still fancies her! That’s a win! Because he’s perfect!
Wrong, as we are to find out in the (presumably) final instalment from our favourite perpetual singleton. And, let’s be honest, we’re here for Bridget and Mark. We want them to do a big snog and live happily ever after. The romcom genre sets the expectation up for us that it’s all going to end well: that the endgame (marriage, babies, etc.) is the checkpoint to happiness, and once our protagonist has vaulted that gate, she will undoubtedly live happily ever after. We never get to see what happens after the endgame. Presumably because she’s so happy literally all the time that it would be boring! Snoozefest – right guys?
Even though the pair were back en couple by the end of the second film, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), at the beginning of the third they’re not together any more. She didn’t endgame it with some marriage to seal the deal, ‘silly Bridget’, and in the interim he’s gone and married someone else. Oops! She’s a single lady once more, but this time she’s not trying to put a ring on it. At the horrendously senile age of 43, she has retired her sex life, hung up her various sizes of pants, and is just getting on with it.
Until she accidentally shags a billionaire at a festival. A really sexy one, with a nice tent. And then a week later she accidentally shags Darcy at a christening. And herein lieth the plot: good old Bridget is preggers, and doesn’t know which of the ludicrously wealthy and sexy men is the father. Lol! Single parenthood is just so droll.
In this third installment, it’s not Bridget we see undergo self-evaluation and change, it’s Mark Darcy. Which is actually weirdly refreshing: how many romcoms do you see in which the female lead’s love interest is having a bit of an existential crisis? Mark actually manages to make rather an arse of himself in pursuit of his lovely lady. He realises he might need to actually … compromise. She’s sorted her shit out, now it’s his turn. And he’s got competition in the shape of Jack Quant, tech guru with jawline for days.
Bridget is as hilarious, charming and endearing as ever. The new perspective on Bridget and Mark Darcy’s relationship is what keeps this film feeling fresh and fun, rather than a re-hash of a will-they-won’t-they that we’ve seen twice before. It’s an absolute joy to see a 43-year-old woman with such zest and vivacity, and Zellweger settles comfortably into Bridget’s shoes once again, with her waddly walk and penchant for disaster.
Patrick Dempsey as Jack Quant successfully competes with Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy for our affection; he is charming, funny and just so likeable. Emma Thompson, as the dry as a bone obstetrician Dr. Rawlings, manages to steal every scene she’s in. Does it help Thompson co-wrote the screenplay with Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer? Probably. And, of course, there’s Firth, the prototypical Darcy. He manages to show a new, more nuanced and vulnerable side. It’s a real pleasure to watch him.
It’s fun. Go and see it. Eat popcorn, laugh loudly, and come out feeling all warm and fuzzy. The film is still about getting to that endgame, but it’s taken a more circuitous, and dare I say it, realistic route.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is on general release now.
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A picture is taken from the film’s official website http://www.bridgetjonesmovie.co.uk/
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It shows a white woman, who could be in her late 30s or early 40s, holding a small birthday cupcake with one lit candle in front of her and staring at it rather sceptically, with a slight grimace. She’s wearing pink top and cream cardigan, her hair is loosely held on the top of her head.