Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
We’re going to need bigger pants
Back in 2001 author Helen Fielding’s calorie-counting, love-starved, mishap-prone British singleton, Bridget Jones, was welcomed onto the silver screen, Bridget Jones’s Diary receiving rave reviews upon release, its star Renée Zellweger gaining 30 or so pounds for the title role. While I wasn’t overly fond of the cigarette-smoking, marriage-fixated klutz, the rest of the world sure was — Zellweger receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Actress back in 2002. Awards buzz fizzled soon after though, when the 2004 follow-up Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason drained all life and charisma out of our beloved heroine, who once again found herself juggling her feelings between highly-strung barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and her charming but shady boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Given the sequel’s poor reception, our darling Bridget was consequentially put to rest … or so we thought.
Twelve years later and she’s alive again in Bridget Jones’s Baby, which admittedly sounds awful, but is in fact quite a pleasant delight. Sharon Maguire, who directed the first flick and then jumped ship, is back to right Bridget’s wrongs. She’s also aided by a zippy script which disregards Fielding’s 2013 paperback Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy and instead hones in on a storyline that was featured in one of the writer’s columns, the screenplay penned by Fielding herself, Dan Mazer, I Give It a Year (2013), and actress Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility (1995) — who has a hilarious bit part in the film as Bridget’s rather outspoken obstetrician, Dr. Rawlings.
Bridget Jones’s Baby starts off in traditional Bridget fashion, Jones celebrating her 43rd birthday alone on the sofa with a glass of bubbly, listening to the sorrowful sounds of Jamie O’Neal’s ‘All By Myself.’ That’s until she flips to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ and does her best Lip Sync Battle piece, literally bouncing about in her shoebox apartment — and just like that, Bridget is her old self again, well kinda — she’s more of a spinster or a Spilf now, one who’s not looking for all of life’s solutions in a man. See, a lot has changed since we last saw our clumsy starlet — she and Mr. Darcy are no longer an item and Daniel Cleaver isn’t around, this leaving Bridget single to mingle, our protagonist focusing on friendships as opposed to relationships and her job as a top news producer for a show called Hard News. Lo and behold, Bridget’s fortune takes an madcap turn when she meets a handsome American named Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) at an outdoor Coachella-like music festival, the pair partaking in a ‘drunken roll in the hay’ so to speak. A week later, Bridget finds herself face-to-face with Mr. Darcy at a friend’s christening, where she learns of his separation from his elegant wife. After a bit too much ‘Gangnam Style,’ the duo ends up spending the night together in a nearby hotel room. Next thing you know, Bridget’s ‘knocked up,’ and while she’s thrilled about the prospect of having a little one, she has no idea who the daddy is — Could it be the dashing McDreamy or stubborn McDarcy?
The success of Bridget Jones’s Baby can be attributed to a couple of factors. First up, the wonderful cast and their undeniable chemistry, Renée Zellweger reprising the role of the loveable Jones with ease, the 47-year-old Texan embodying the similar aged bachelorette to a tee — her honesty and comic timing still impeccable, even after a six year absence from the screen. Colin Firth, Magic in the Moonlight (2014), is as distinguished as ever, portraying the posh Mark Darcy to perfection whilst series newcomer Patrick Dempsey, Made of Honor (2008), is great as Jack Qwait, the millionaire competing for Jones’ affection. With all three leads sharing such a dynamic connection, it’s almost impossible to root for any particular side. Elsewhere, Sarah Solemani makes for a welcome addition to the Bridget-verse as Jones’ thirtysomething work friend Miranda, the Him & Her (2010) star showcasing a razor-sharp sense of wit. Then there’s the return of Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent as Bridget’s folks, who haven’t a clue how to use FaceTime, while Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and James Callis slip back into the skin of Bridget’s pals, Shazzer, Jude and Tom respectively.
The script (which I’ve already sorta mentioned) is second to none, too, the writers depicting the titular Jones as a flawed person who makes legitimate mistakes (and is a hoot to watch). The flick is also quite progressive with its themes of sexual and political freedom, this highlighted in a subplot that sees Bridget’s mother run for local political office, eventually recognizing that there’s nothing scandalous about having a child out of wedlock in 2016. Additionally, all this comes with a message about relationships, the pic ultimately stating that in the end, it isn’t overly important who ‘the father’ is, as it’s the bond between mother and child that matters most. And yes, there are humorous cameos and cultural references sprinkled throughout, including some spot-on digs aimed at today’s clickbait generation, hipster beards and digital media.
That said, the narrative does stretch credibility from time to time, but the comedy is broad and the film, very funny (at one point, it even had me in tears of laughter). Heck, I’d go so far as to say that Bridget Jones’s Baby is better than the original — it’ll appeal to long time fans and those who have been living under a rock — the feel-good charmer wrapping the ‘now’ trilogy up somewhat nicely (that’s assuming it remains a trilogy). Who would have thought that a late-nineties-early-noughties figure could still be relevant today, huh?
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by L. Jackson
Bridget Jones’s Baby is released through Universal Pictures Australia