This week, Heather Jaccard reassesses, in remarkable detail, Bridget Jones’s “14 Absolute Truths” and finds a new perspective on a ten-year-old film.
One of the top 30 movies of our time… Anyway, at least.
Oy. Get your diary out, pour yourself a bottle of wine, grab a packet of fags and allow yourself to wallow in the world of Bridget Jones, as we review the movie in all its cringe-inducing glory. Let me first say that while I enjoyed watching this movie 10 years ago, I now realize that in my late teens I missed the boat on this flick entirely. While some of the scenes are enjoyable for audiences of all ages and gender (Have it oeuf Egg Peeler? Anyone?), this movie was made for women in their 30’s. There’s a level of relatability to these characters that I couldn’t begin to understand before, but fortunately for all of us spinster lunatics, Bridget Jones has not lost its humor in 2011.
The adaptation of Helen Fielding’s celebrated novel caused quite the casting controversy after Renée ‘Cheeks’ Zellweger was tabbed to bring Bridget to the screen. Apparently critics disagreed with a skinny American being cast as a chubby British woman. Brillant observation, critics. Luckily for Zellweger, she had no qualms about getting paid millions to pig-out and quickly put on 20 lbs (1 stone 6 lbs if we’re gonna get all Limey) for the film. What a hardship. On screen, looking sufficiently plump and speaking with a passable accent, I enjoyed watching Zellweger in this role and think she managed to cultivate her girl-next-dooryness into a workable interpretation of Fielding’s character; bringing to the screen a cheeky, insecure girl with an air of adolescent maturity constantly about her. Any doubts I had over Zellweger being up to the task were put to rest within the first few minutes of watching, replaced by my complete engrossment in the character Fielding made us love. Zellweger’s Bridget reminded me of some of my more high maintenance girlfriends; independent, good-humored lushes who can be annoyingly stubborn and dimwitted and naïve in regard to men, all at once. The type of friend you invite for martinis in the city, but ignore when it comes to the post-date-analysis call after she’s dined with Mr. Wonderful.com (of the week) and wants your advice as to whether she should wait for him to contact her or if she should just send him a little ‘texty’ to say goodnight. She is the type of friend who makes you want to bang your head repeatedly against a cinderblock wall and during this movie that urge will overtake you several times. Unfortunately, that urge is often laced with the crippling realization that you are also, in fact, the embodiment of that irritating, silly girl, and rather than sit idle on your couch giving Bridget the stink eye, it’s rather best to sit up, take note and let Bridget remind you of just why, exactly, she (and you) are single.
So, as a woman in the appropriate age group who laughed her ass off while re-watching this film, I feel it best to approach this review in a format of rules and lessons learned from the diary of one Bridget Jones — who is indeed v. single, v. silly and in the end, not v. much the wiser. But worry not — as our heroine teaches us (repeatedly) — you really have to fuck it up before you can get it right, and I’m positive Bridget’s still got plenty of fuck-ups ahead of her (well, at least enough for a sequel).
And now — let’s copy down the ’14 Absolute Truths’ of Bridget Jones’s world and attempt to teach this old girl some new tricks.
Truth # 1: Everything begins anew on New Year’s Day.
…And all life changes which aim to ‘better oneself’ can, and should be ignored until then. As the movie opens with Bridget realizing that all of her darkest fears are coming to fruition sooner than expected, I try desperately to remember what my New Year’s resolutions were. While I’m sure I took the ‘cop-out’ route and resolved to ‘take more time for myself!’, Bridget takes a more serious approach. Deducing that starting a committed relationship with a man might be tricky if already invested in a committed relationship with a bottle of wine, Bridget plans accordingly. With an aim of not dying alone (only to be found three weeks later, partially eaten by wild dogs), Bridget resolves to stop drinking, smoking and consuming calories and deservedly morph into a wanton sex goddess! Hooray! Even more fortunate is that it’s New Year’s, which basically means that all wrong doings from previous calendar years are erased (immediately) and new change can be fully embraced. The only tiny, pesky, problem is that embracing new change proves decidedly difficult as Bridget continually justifies her misbehavior with promises of starting tomorrow morning, anew… again. And really — I can’t blame her. Give me wine and chocolate over diet and exercise any day. At least Bridget actually wrote her resolutions down (unlike myself) and attempted to make good on them each day. Bully for you, Bridge! Things are looking hopeful.
Truth # 2: Resolutions should never begin with ‘Obviously will lose twenty pounds.’
…For obvious reasons and state of mental health.
Truth # 3: Dressing like a slut will get you a man.
…But he’ll be the wrong man. Back in my late teens, I liked to think that I had the smarts and self respect to not fall for the Daniel Cleavers of the world, but now an older and wiser version of myself can realistically say that I had neither the good sense nor self-control to resist the charms of an churlish cad in a suit, especially one with movie star looks. Along with Cleaver’s complete disrespect for women, Bridget is also drawn to his floppy hair and boyish smile, and at first we don’t fault her for it. What I find so annoyingly relatable about Bridget’s immediate derail from her New Year’s resolution of finding a nice, sensible boyfriend, is that Cleaver is the epitome of everything she’s meant to be avoiding. Hugh Grant is well suited in this role, and plays a believable asshat, bumbling and smirking his way through the movie as a megalomaniac, emotional fuckwit. Bridget, infatuated with Cleaver from afar, has determined that she will not get involved with him, and of course — this is just when he shows interest in her. And I’ll be damned — but that’s just how life goes. Dress like a slut, lure in a dick. I’d like to take a moment and congratulate the most critical character in Bridget’s departure to doucheland; her black skirt…Mrs. Skirt if you’re feeling Janet Jackson-nasty. And while Bridget never wears another skirt quite as horrible as the skirt which ‘took the day off sick,’ she does manage the unthinkable in a sheer blouse and black bra number. Bloody hell. Actually, Bridget manages to spend the whole movie dressing like either an Amish woman in trainers with a full stock of cardigans or a 45-year-old trying to fit in the ‘club scene’ in Ibiza. Either way — Bridget’s year is off to a very bad start indeed.
Truth # 4: Always ignore the men you like and be fabulous with everyone else.
…Yup. With or without the skirt-which-shall-not-be-named (which reminds me that Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) is playing Bridget’s dad and Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) is just as annoying outside a bathroom as she is in the role of emo-friend Jude), it’s always best to perform a makeover on yourself and slip into a little black dress to wear while ignoring your crush. A better idea would have been to use time spent on the makeover to practice the introduction you’re meant to give and familiarize yourself with the ‘on/off’ switch on a microphone, but oy — it’s full steam into Bridget’s rambling introduction (which Cleaver calls a ‘post-modernist masterpiece of oratorical fireworks’) with no looking back. Even without a microphone, Bridget manages to insult three of her publishing house authors and reduce the ‘Greatest Book of our Time’ to ‘One of the top 30 books of our time… Anyway, at least!’. And thanks to the ignoring, and the makeover, and the fireworks, Bridget gets a date with the Cleave. Side note: don’t date a guy who calls himself ‘the Cleave’.
Truth # 5: Consider all-angles (and positions) when choosing your undergarments.
…Especially when looking to take a lover. And if you do find yourself wearing extremely large panties while in the arms of your lover, perhaps this is the time to excuse yourself to the loo and remove the extra weight. I think we’d all like to avoid being the girl in the ‘absolutely enormous panties,’ (can I get an Amen?) but lucky for our girl — Cleaver makes light out of the enormity of the panty situation, and the prospect of sex is saved! Granted, I don’t think Bridget will be returning home to write: Dear Diary, Found that key to becoming wanton sex goddess is through wearing panties large enough to cocoon both you and your mate against those chilly winter drafts! An absolute repeat! But perhaps she will write about Cleaver making her feel like a natural woman, how nice it would have been to have lost 5 lbs before getting naked with a man, and then start scrawling ‘Bridget Cleaver’ in the corner over a heart doodle. I think it’s safe to assume that while Bridget’s at home, basking in post-coital bliss, and overanalyzing every millisecond with Cleaver (this is when your high maintenance friend rings and wants your opinion on whether some inane thing that Mr.Wonderful.com said could have somehow been code for ‘I’ve waited my whole life for you’ and you, in turn, stick a pen in your eye), Cleaver is either prowling at a bar or already having sex with another woman. True story.
Truth # 6: If you ever use the words ‘And he’s perfect’ to describe a man – back the truck up.
…And then slap yourself for good measure. Similarly, if you find yourself riding shotgun in a convertible next to a ‘bonafide sexgod’ who’s taking you on a mini-break holiday weekend, at your behest, then it’s always a good idea to (at least) wait out the weekend before professing your undying love to said sexgod. While Bridget’s reasoning that ‘a mini-break means true love’ certainly captures that hopeful optimism that your current boyfriend might just be your last-ever-boyfriend (insert wedding march here…dum dum dum dum), there’s no good sense in acting on it. Especially when you’ve only been shagging the Cleave for a week. But, before the l-o-v-e bomb drops, we get to enjoy Bridget’s awesome convertible hair (which rivals any Poison video), Daniel Cleaver in a lake (which is a reminder that beer makes any row boat experience better, and also a reminder that Hugh Grant can never be as sexy in a lake as Colin Firth), and off-screen sexual acts illegal in most countries. Huzzah. Unfortunately for Bridget, after she makes her love confession Cleaver’s clever enough to threaten further sexual perversions as a distraction from answering real question about ‘feelings.’ With the topic effectively closed Cleaver breaths a sigh of relief and Bridget wonders whether it’s safe to sleep next to a sexual fiend. Cleaver’s a smart man — I would’ve shut up too.
Truth # 7: If you tell a man you love him and his eyes start frantically darting toward the exits, trip him on his way out.
…And recommit yourself to the bottle of wine you’d been neglecting. I’ve got to give it to Bridget — she not only views Cleaver’s hasty mini-break retreat through rose-colored glasses, but then has the audacity to attend a Tarts and Vicars Party Sunday Brunch in full Playboy Bunny costume. Which means that we need to take a moment to fully appreciate the massive amounts of cleavage on display in that costume. Holy hell and well done, Bridget — high fives all around. With all the brunch conversation foreshadowing Cleaver’s future emergence as asshat extraordinaire, we’re reminded once again just how attractive Mark Darcy is, as he plays the role of the bigger man perfectly and refuses to address Bridget’s instigating remarks about his divorce. Darcy, looking pained about something, gets a parting shot of Bridget’s cleavage before exiting stage right, and Bridget gets her bunny tail back to London just in time to catch Cleaver with a very American, very snarky, very naked woman in his bathroom. Raise your hand if you didn’t see that coming…(this shit just got real)!
Truth # 8: If you think your boyfriend (with the playboy reputation) is cheating on you, he is.
…Repeatedly. The only thing surprising about Cleaver’s affair is that he’s somehow wound up engaged to the naked American. I have to applaud Bridget for not assaulting him with an industrial strength Swingline stapler while he tells her of his engagement and blandly explains that he was looking for something extraordinary, and young, and American, and everything else that Bridget is obviously not. While I believe that a man telling you that he’s been looking for something extraordinary, while not referencing you, calls for a swift kick to the jewels, followed by massive amounts of alcohol, Bridget shows some class. Standing awkwardly in Cleaver’s office (thinking, ‘curse you mini-break love confession!’) she hold’s it together long enough to get back to her flat before giving into heartbreak and despair via emotional eating. And in true chick-flick style, we now can look forward to the following: Crying in a tub with copious amounts of vodka, followed by a ‘get your fucking life together’ montage. The outcome is a slightly less-drunk Bridget landing a job at Sit-Up Britain!, where she’s just bound to do great things… Great things such as exposing her ass to viewers while sliding down a fire-pole. But that really isn’t Bridget’s fault — I mean, come on, cameraman! What angle where you presuming you’d get by positioning yourself directly under her descending ass? Seems like a pretty clever assumption to me. Excellent fire station though.
Truth # 9: Once you find a good man to like you, he will fix all your problems and you will be a success!
…And if he’s a rich, attractive lawyer, that’s all the better. I don’t mean to gloss over the genuine moment between Bridget and Darcy when he admits, while looking pained, to liking her… very much… just the way she is (sigh), because it really is a nice scene. However, it would take more than ten barrister’s affections to fill the void of emotional immaturity that Bridget’s suffers from, and in reality she should be focusing on how to not fall for men like Cleaver, not trying to find a new boyfriend in a man she can barely tolerate. Yet, Darcy quickly emerges as the solution to all of Bridget’s short-comings — first by arranging the coveted interview which launches her career with Sit-Up Britain!, and then by providing a much needed omelet entrée to be flanked by Bridget’s Blue Leek Soup and Orange Marmalade Pudding. At this point, after the omelet, it’s easy to sweep the feminists under the rug and get sucked in by Darcy’s charms and Bridget’s delusions. I mean, just look at him! If he makes one more helpful intervention into Bridget’s life (three’s a charm) I’ll soon be marching along to Bridget’s tune, chanting ‘You’re only a strong independent woman if you have a man!’ However, just when we’re making headway in the reinvention of Darcy as the perfect suitor/savior for Bridget, he-who-shall-not-be-named appears at her door, his hair floppy as ever, presuming that she’d be alone on her birthday. Charming bloke. Hrrrrumph.
Truth # 10: If your cheating engaged ex-boyfriend-boss show’s up, uninvited, don’t kiss him.
…And if you do, don’t slip him any tongue. But cut that shit out once he starts yammering on about how he’s a terrible disaster, and useless without you, and blah, blah, pity-party, blah. Ignore him especially when he start’s talking about the skirt-that-shall-not-be-named because really, that’s what got you into this whole mess to begin with (See Truth # 3) you little mynx! The next few events get a bit fuzzy, as I was horribly distracted by sad-sap omelet-making Darcy exiting the flat only to re-enter as sleeves-rolled-up, authoritative and hot as shit Darcy, stating ‘all right, Cleaver, outside.’ Hells yeah outside! Wait, what? This of course results in men yelling ‘fight!’ crowds gathering and Darcy and Cleaver careening through a restaurant window together, set against a techno-dance mix of ‘It’s Raining Men.’ And glass, apparently. I can only assume the song choice is to point out the bittersweet fact that while Bridget has finally made it — two men fighting over her (oh, no, she didn’t!) — the circumstances couldn’t be worse. With Bridget still laboring under the false assumption that it was Darcy who cheated on Cleaver’s fiancé (not Cleaver who cheated with Darcy’s wife), Darcy emerges from the fight the victor, but promptly receives Bridget’s wrath, as she scolds him for his crimes (again, assuming adultery) and tends to Cleaver in the street. The scene is pivotal, but frustrating as fuck to watch without wanting to shake the shit out of both Bridget and Cleaver. At least Darcy gets to pull a Pride & Prejudice and walk away with the most memorable line, stating coolly, ‘well, I can see that I’ve been laboring under a misapprehension. A very, very foolish mistake. Forgive me.’ Oh Darcy, you and Bridget both…
Truth # 11: If a man says ‘If I can’t make it with you…I can’t make it with anyone,’ run, and run fast.
…And take your meddling little skirts with you. After biting my nails during Cleaver and Darcy’s standoff, I was immensely relieved to see Bridget finally resist the siren call of the floppy hair! Cheers, Bridget! Unfortunately Darcy was not present to witness Bridget’s rebuke of Cleaver’s (latest) advances and has taken his omelet making skills elsewhere. Something tells me I’ll have to wait to the end of the movie to see a reconciliation between those two… Moving on, I enjoyed the parallels between Bridget’s relationship with Cleaver and her Mum’s fling with the world’s worst spray tan job, Julian. From the very beginning, the writers parallel Pam’s homecoming and conversation with Colin (Professor Slughorn) to Bridget’s scene with Cleaver in the street. Pam earnestly tells Colin that she just ‘doesn’t work without him’ — which immediately evokes the similarity to Cleaver’s line — which illuminates the stark contrast between the two statements, and the emotions behind them. We should all be thankful that Bridget and Pam realize it at last.
Truth # 12: If you’re about to lose the guy that you maybe, might, sorta love, now’s the time for an embarrassing scene.
…Onlookers be damned! Do it for England! After Bridget’s big discovery that Darcy was in fact the victim of Cleaver’s cheating, Bridge springs into action (accompanied by Diana Ross’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain’) to go get her maybe-sorta-man! Unfortunately, even after her apology and flirtations it’s still too little, too late for this couple as Darcy, bright legal mind that he is, has already taken a job in New York with bitch-face Nat-aaaasha. Things are looking glum for our girl until suddenly – a moment of truth! Bridget succumbs to an outburst and begs Darcy, and all the guests at Pemberley Darcy Manor to think of England(!) and the crime it would be to ‘lose one of our top people…uh…just top person, really.’ When not met with any hint of affection, Bridget turns on her heel and leaves the scene while the crowd appropriately murmurs and Darcy looks (surprisingly) pained about something. When Darcy doesn’t make contact following the outburst, Bridget flirts with the idea of becoming a Spinster and full-time Lunatic until her friends intervene with a trip to Paris.
Truth # 13: If he flew across the Atlantic, just to see you, shove your tongue down his throat immediately.
…Knickers be damned! Okay, Not that I don’t love the scene in which Bridget sprints around in a snowstorm clad only in her panties (like the Lunatic she is) searching for Darcy — because I do — but it could have been avoided had she just kissed him in the street! Or in the doorway! Or in the flat! For Christ sake — I won’t even mention how all of this could have been avoided if she just followed Truth # 5 (am I right?)! Is she assuming they’re going to get to a panty revealing stage within 10 seconds of their first kiss and therefore this is the only available time to change panties? It takes about 5 seconds to change your panties, next time how about you start the kissing and then excuse yourself a bit later (while he’s properly distracted) to make the switch? This would certainly reduce the chances of him reading through the diary you left open on the kitchen table (open to a page reading: Dear Diary, I Hate Mark Darcy and wish he were dead.) and then having reaction to it. And really, about that diary — I get that Bridget was mad at Darcy for moving to New York, but jeez — obsess much? How many times can you write about how much you hate someone you haven’t even kissed? Wouldn’t a few well-placed slurs on the doors of a loo be more effective? Could we at least throw a little hate Cleaver’s way while you’re at it? At this moment, after all the shenanigans and after being so close to a resolution, the last thing Bridget needs is for all this to go tits up, so let’s evoke Truth # 12 …again.
Truth # 14: Running after the man you love in your leopard-print panties is a guaranteed victory!
…Just make sure you properly wax first. Thank goodness this reconciliation was also accompanied by Diana Ross. Hands down the best line of this scene goes to the homeless guy Bridget encounters on her way out the door: ‘Wish me luck!’ ‘Good luck, crazy girl!’ Enough said. What really was lucky for Bridget was that she wore a very flattering cut of panty; also lucky was that Darcy seemed un-phased by the diary (despite his abrupt departure from the flat) and things are finally lining up for our duo. And would you look at that? It’s a resolution just in time for New Year’s. Cue the long awaited kiss. Cue Bridget’s surprised reaction to Darcy’s lips: ‘Wait a minute. Nice boys don’t kiss like that.’ Cue the hot Darcy line in response ‘Oh, yes, they fucking do.’ Cue the Van Morrison Song. And cue the credits — it’s a wrap.