'Bridget Jones' Diary' is an irresistible must-see

by Julia Levy | 4/25/01 5:00am

123 lbs. (typical), boyfriends (um, not so much), calories undecided (are we subtracting the ones lost while on the treadmill?), alcohol units 2 (less than the average Dartmouth student on a Saturday night), no. of times checked blitz today 9,000, no. of good blitzes received 12 (v.g.), no. of movies that I've seen recently that deserve rave reviews 1 (read on for detail).

Even in Hanover, it would have been nearly impossible to miss the hype surrounding the release of "Bridget Jones's Diary," the movie version of Helen Fielding's best seller.

Its star, Rene Zellweger -- as we collectively heard on every single morning and late night talk show for about a week -- was forced to gain 20 pounds to act the role of Bridget. And not only that, she had to learn to speak the British version of English convincingly enough so she didn't make instant enemies of the legions of Fielding's European fans.

After seeing the first 15 or so of these talk show appearances, I determined that this movie was going to either be something really special or something mediocre with a super-zealous public relations staff. Luckily, it turned out to be the former rather than the latter.

About a week before the film's grand opening, I decided to prepare. I headed over to the bookstore and purchased the novel, which I pored through when I should have been writing papers and reading books about American Government.

The thing that is so compelling about the book -- and which thankfully survived the transition into movie-form -- is the candidly awkward, constantly-in-love-with-the-wrong-guy, self-help-book-reading, cigarette-smoking main character, Bridget.

Through her diary entries, Bridget tells her audience what's happening in her life, how she's feeling about it, and what she plans to do to change the situation. But she isn't like the dorky elementary-school-aged diary-toting "Harriet the Spy" who was my last journal-writing role model.

Bridget is a 32-year-old bachelorette who works in a London publishing house. She loves men and loves sex and truly thinks that there is one guy out there who will like her just how she is (cigarettes and drinking and extra pounds and all). She is a typical feminist's nightmare. She diets constantly, she wears uncomfortable underwear so that she'll look more attractive in dresses, she lives by a slew of insane dating theories and she parades around in see-through tops when she wants to win a guy.

In terms of character, Bridget falls somewhere between Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) in "Clueless" and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) of "Sex and the City" fame.

After reading the book and seeing the movie, I determined that it's not the plot that's special -- it's the lifestyle. This lifestyle is supposed to be the embodiment of the single urban British woman. But American women (and men for that matter) can relate to the daily life of the main character as she relates to various friends (all a bit on the crazy side) and relatives (definitely crazy).

Throughout the movie, it's impossible not to root for Bridget as she seeks out the perfect man. The top two contestants for this position are her sexy (but slightly sketchy) boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Darcy, whose character draws heavily on Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy from "Pride and Prejudice," is present in Bridget's life throughout the movie. In fact, he and Bridget were childhood playmates. But during much of the movie, it isn't clear whether he and Bridget will actually get together.

Coincidentally, Bridget's boss (and intra-office email buddy) was Darcy's best man before his marriage mysteriously broke up. This adds to the dynamic triangle that forms between the two men and the story's witty protagonist.

In the transition from book to movie, the subplots of the relationship between Bridget and her girlfriends and the sleazy affair between her mother (Gemma Jones) and a TV jewelry salesman are abridged, but the missing elements are no great loss to the movie's continuity or development.

This is the kind of movie that renews faith in the opposite sex, romance, happiness and self esteem. It's the kind of movie that people just have to love. It's the kind of movie that leaves viewers with big goofy grins as they exit the movie theaters. I don't know if this is the type of film that will someday be considered a "classic," but it's a definite must-see for 2001.

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