BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY - DVD review

...if you like the movie and you haven't bought it yet, the special Collector's Edition makes sense.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio

Here's another of those monumental coincidences that can happen in the big, wide, wonderful world of movies. The "New Exclusive DVD Edition" of the 2001 comedy "Bridget Jones's Diary" gets issued in Buena Vista's "Miramax Collector's Series" just three days before the theatrical release of the movie's sequel, 2004's "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason." What a happy break for Miramax and BV! Some people have all the luck.

Are there any differences between the new DVD edition of the 2001 release and the old edition that was issued just a year prior? Of course, there are. You wouldn't suspect a conspiracy, would you? Although the new edition features the same audio-video presentation of the movie as before and several of the same extras, it also sports a few additional bonus items, plus a handsome new slipcover for the keep case.

Before we get to the new edition changes, though, let's look back again on the movie. To start things off, think of the horror and tragedy that must come with being a slightly overweight, cigarette-addicted, thirty-two-year-old, single, white female. That's the premise of this romantic comedy from the same British writer, producers, and star (Richard Curtis, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Hugh Grant) who brought us "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill." But is the premise enough to sustain a ninety-minute movie? It wasn't for me, despite several funny scenes and good performances by Renee Zellweger in the title role and by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in supporting roles. Sadly, given its roots, however, "Bridget Jones's Diary" never fully comes to comedic life, seldom reaches out emotionally, and provides few new insights into the perils of love and dating. "Bridget" was a disappointment, given my appreciation of its antecedents. It's a close call, but ultimately "Bridget" is not a great or even near-great genre film, merely a routine, formulaic one.

This one is based on the best-selling novel by Helen Fielding, based in turn on her highly popular series of newspaper columns, with a plot taken from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." It stars American actress Renee Zellweger as the somewhat plump and paranoid British single, Bridget Jones. Ms. Zellweger had to affect an English accent and gain about thirty pounds for the role, both of which she accomplished nicely. However, I never thought she was anywhere near the size and weight that made her look as unattractive as her character seems to think she is (perhaps the film's comment on some people's misguided sense of self-esteem). Fact is, Bridget is a very pretty woman with intelligence and wit, which is perhaps why, in spite of her lack of self confidence, she is able to interest two handsome men in her life. The men are ably played, as I said, by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Grant plays Daniel Cleaver, Bridget's boss in a publishing house where Bridget is a PR assistant. Leaving behind his usual shy, stammering, Mr. Nice Guy persona for a welcome change, Grant is still charming as a delightfully roguish cad indifferent to commitment. Firth plays Mark Darcy, at first a stuffy, boring, arrogant barrister, who slowly in the course of the film warms up as a person and warms to Bridget in particular. The author has said that she had Firth in mind for the role of Darcy ever since she saw him in the television production of "Pride and Prejudice," playing, of course, Mr. Darcy.

Anyway, as the movie begins Bridget's love life is in the pits; then, she notices and is noticed by her boss, Daniel. She soon begins an affair with him that before long she sees is going nowhere. Her aim is love and marriage. His aim is avoidance of the words "love" or "marriage." Rejected by Daniel's infidelity, she quits her job and finds a new one in broadcasting, soon becoming a minor television celebrity due to her spunk and candor on a tabloid-type show called "Sit Up Britain."

Zellweger is the best thing about the movie, and if you don't find her admittedly ebullient personality enough to pique your curiosity, as I didn't, you're in for a long haul. She narrates the film as one might be reading a diary, and she's in every scene. There is little plot, and the story is for all intents and purposes a straightforward character study. In this regard, the newspaper-column background of the story and character show through. Perhaps I was slightly prejudiced going in because before the movie I read a few of the newspaper articles that are included on the DVD and found them singularly tedious and unamusing. I was reminded that TV's "Tales of the City" was also taken from a series of newspaper columns that I had read years ago in the San Francisco "Chronicle," but those old stories had an outrageous campiness about them that kept one going back. Maybe this was a British thing, I thought, before watching the picture. Well, the movie turned out better than the newspaper columns, but not enough to maintain my interest for long. As I said, Bridget is the center of attention here, and if we don't take to her, little else works. Zellweger makes her character funny, vulnerable, and sympathetic, but not entirely involving. Bridget is sweet and lovable and smarter than she thinks, but that's about all. Still, as people say about her, they love her "just as she is." The hard part to believe is that before the movie's over she has these two handsome, intelligent guys literally fighting over her in the street.

The cutest parts of the film for me were Bridget's constant worries about her weight and her continual fantasies about how the world views her. Then there is the "Vicars and Tarts" party she attends in the costume of a street hooker, only to find out when she arrives that the costume angle had been called off but nobody told her. It's not only an amusing sequence, it's an effective metaphor for the way she views herself--as a loner and a loser, all her friends happily married or attached to someone else. I also enjoyed her parents (Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent) and their own, parallel marital dilemmas; in fact, I longed to see more of them and less of Bridget as the film wore on. Finally, I found it amusing to see controversial author Salman Rushdie in a cameo part playing himself. None of this was quite enough, however, to make me want to go back and watch the film again.

Video:
In regard to picture and sound quality, the movie lives up to the standards modern technology. The image is presented in a widescreen ratio measuring a ratio approximately 2.13:1 across my standard-screen HD television. Colors are fittingly bright if very slightly rough in appearance and maybe a little veiled. Faces are slightly pale compared to what I would imagine them to look like in real life, but at least they're not purplish as in some recent DVD transfers I've seen.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also good, with pleasant, ambient musical overtones directed to the rear speakers. Since 99% of the movie is dialogue driven, there is hardly much need for the surrounds except to reproduce some musical ambiance, which is handled nicely.

Extras:
Several bonus items are carried over from the previous edition, so let me mention them first. To begin, there is a full-feature audio commentary with director Sharon Maguire. The next is a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that is slightly more informative than the publicity piece I thought it was going to be. Following that are a selected few of the original "Bridget Jones's Diary" columns I referred to earlier. Of most importance to me, however, were seven deleted scenes that I thought were every bit as good as the stuff that was left in the movie. And there is a collection of "Sneak Peeks" at other Buena Vista titles. The losers in this new equation appear to be the two music videos that appeared on the earlier disc, "Killin' Kind" with Shelby Lynne and "Out of Reach" with Gabrielle. They are nowhere in sight.

In addition, the special "Collector's Series" edition includes the following bonus items. First, there's a seven-minute featurette titled "The Young and the Mateless, An Expert's Guide to Being Single"; it's pretty much self explanatory and serves mainly as a promo for the film. Second, there's a six-minute featurette called "The Bridget Phenomenon," which includes some comments by the book's author, Helen Fielding. It, too, is pretty much a promo for the film. Third, there is a five-minute featurette titled "Portrait of the Makeup Artist," wherein the film's makeup designer, Graham Johnston, tells you the obvious about his job. Fourth, there are four domestic and international TV spots for the movie. Fifth, there is a widescreen theatrical trailer for the movie's sequel, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason." Sixth, there is two-minute featurette called "A Guide To Bridget Britishisms," which defines various British usages like "knickers," "loo," "poof," "shag," "sodding," and "wanker." You get the idea here. And there are several strongly positive reviews of the movie you can read from Roger Ebert, Peter Travers, "USA Today," and the like. Finally, there are seventeen scene selections; a chapter insert; English and French spoken languages; Spanish subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and the aforementioned slipcase to consider.

Do any of these additional items make it worthwhile to buy the new DVD set if you already own the old one? That's not for me to say. Certainly, if you like the movie and you haven't bought it yet, the special Collector's Edition makes sense. Unless you can find an older edition used at half the price. Or you just want to rent it.

Parting Shots:
"Bridget Jones's Diary" was released in the United States just a few months before the lighter, sillier, and, for me, more entertaining "Legally Blonde," and it was a close call deciding on ratings for both films. I liked both "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Legally Blonde" for featuring young women of intelligence and conviction trying to improve their lot in life. Ultimately, though, I found myself favoring the less-abrasive if giddier "Legally Blonde" over its more hard-edged British cousin. It's not that I didn't like the romantic comedy of "Bridget" or its quirky character studies or Renee Zellweger or Hugh Grant or Colin Firth. I admit an enthusiasm for all of them. I suppose in the end "Bridget Jones's Diary" was just a bit too slick, too cynical, and too routine for me.

Nor was I endeared by the frankly vulgar language in "Bridget Jones's Diary," which earned it an R rating. I hope I don't sound too prudish in saying this, but in a light comedy it's particularly disconcerting for me to hear folks using the kind of endless profanity that occurs here, language apparently added for the sake of realism and hipness to appeal to a generation that finds such words and phrases perfectly natural. Maybe so, but it also tends to spoil the picture for a whole lot of viewers who find listening to such obscenities uncomfortable, maybe many of the same people the lightheartedness of the movie was striving otherwise to entertain.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
7
Film Value
6