Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bridget Jones's Diary: A guest post on a modern classic

How long has it been since you watched Bridget Jones's Diary

About fifteen minutes? Me too.
In what we hope will be a regular feature here at OMwG, the lovely and talented Amy Smith Reeves, author of Ripper
See? Both.
has put her expertise in nineteenth-century British lit and her love for pop culture together to revisit THE GREATEST FILM OF OUR TIME. Well, top thirty at least.

Bridget Jones’s Diary: A Decade Later
 I still remember the first time I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary; I was in college, a senior with all of my life ahead of me.  My favorite book was Pride and Prejudice.  I knew nothing about Bridget Jones’s Diary when I first saw it at the theater.  But as I watched it, already entranced by the characters, the Pride and Prejudice references became more obvious (Pemberly Press, Hugh Grant as the smarmy Wickham) and I felt my heartbeat quicken.  Since then, I’ve watched Bridget Jones’s Diary, I don’t know…maybe a billion times.
 Sometimes, I wonder: what makes this movie so great?  On the surface, it seems to be a typical formulaic romantic comedy—a love triangle, a young professional woman whose life hasn’t turned out exactly as she would have wished for it to be.  But after watching Bridget Jones’s Diary as a naïve twenty-one year old who thought (OMG she’s so old!) to someone who is currently Bridget’s age (gulp!) I think I’ve nailed down the main reasons that I think this movie is absolutely, positively brilliant.
1) EXISTENTIAL ANGST—Bridget Jones finds herself, at the age of thirty-two, still single and pining after her sleazy boss, Daniel Cleaver (played by the always brilliant, sometimes sleazy Hugh Grant).  The strong part about this thread in the movie is that this angst is not overplayed.  Bridget has a close circle of friends, Shazzer, Tom, and Jude (played by Sally Philips, James Callis, and Shirley Henderson aka “Moaning Myrtle”).  They provide for her moral support, drinks, and, well… more drinks.  But, as in the best relationships, they talk each other off cliffs.  Bridget deals with calls from work from Jude about Jude’s “fuckwit” boyfriend.  Bridget vents to her friends about her stormy flirtations with Daniel Cleaver.  Thus, Bridget’s angst is indeed a modern angst.  She is happy, rich in friends, and yet she is at a point in life where she feels depleted, a bit, “out to sea” both professionally and romantically.  Which brings me to the other brilliant aspect in BJD…
2) THE LOV E TRIANGLE:  At thirty-two, Bridget is still young, and yet she feels the increasing drones of her biological clock.  She is infatuated with Daniel, intoxicated even.  (Who wouldn’t be with his driving antics and pithy recitations of Keats?) But she knows he is not long term material. Well, she hopes more than she believes that he is.   On the other hand, Darcy (Colin Firth, permanently “doomed” since 1995 to be Fitzwillian Darcy) represents more stability as well as  a bit of old school arrogance. The movie’s ability to cut through his edginess, to reveal that like Austen’s Darcy, he really does “give a damn” is very effective.  Particularly, when he tells Bridget after a brutal dinner party: “I like you just the way you are” we see very clearly, the vulnerability of his character.  We see it sharply, as sharply as when Austen’s arrogant Darcy writers obsessive letters to Elizabeth to explain his behaviors.   The raw honesty, Darcy’s vulnerability, shines here.  A modern Fitzwillian Darcy if there ever was one. 
3)  THERE’S A FIGHT SCENE:  Ok, there aren’t duels anymore in the modern world.  But there is a white-collar fight scene in the movie.  It’s totally awkward and totally brilliant.  It is such a gesture to dueling with Darcy avenging his ex-wife (who Cleaver slept with years before) and attempting to gain Bridget’s respect.  The modern lust for a good chivalric duel comes out deliciously through Tom.  The moment Darcy and Cleaver begin pathetically kicking and punching one another, Tom bursts into a nearby Greek restaurant and shouts, “A fight, A real fight!”  Of course, this draws and audience and the longing within all us to see two professional men fighting over a woman. 
Bridget Jones’s Diary in the past ten years had matured with me, evolved like a good friendship. I think, like Pride and Prejudice, it connects with young women at so many levels.  It is about a young woman on the brink of something…love, a different life, something, but she doesn’t know exactly what the other side of that bring will bring; she has no idea who she wants to be with, what fate will bring to her.  Like Elizabeth Bennett, down on her luck due to her impoverished and eccentric family, Bridget must play her cards sharply.  Granted, Bridget has none of Lizzie Bennett’s wittiness and refreshing good sense, and yet, she is well…charming.  She pushes through the modern world of bad jobs and bad men, to find what makes her happy.       

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