Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Just as day follows night the sequel will follow a Hollywood hit. When Renée Zellweger (literally) embodied the character of Bridget Jones from the popular novel by Helen Fielding the original film exceeded the usually romantic comedy to become a smashing hit. While that film ended on a happy note many fans still wanted to know how the plump, chain smoking Bridget would faire with the new aspects of life provided to her. Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason returns us to the life of this delightfully eccentric young woman. What has touched the hearts of the audience about Bridget is she is somewhat realistic. While most romantic comedies seem to focus only of the ultra thin and beautiful but kooky women Bridget has, as she calls them, ‘wobbly bits’. She also takes eccentricity and the perchance for public self humiliation to heights rarely seen on film. Women loved Bridget for those extra pounds; men seemed to appreciate a woman with realistic curves. While the script is as loose as the flesh under Bridget’s arm the cast performs perfectly and manages to carry the film as far as it was able to go.
This film suffers from the normal dilemma of the sequel format; how do you give the audience something new yet at the same time retain what they loved about the original. It is this difficultly that is at the heart of why so few sequels where able to recapture the charm of the original. While in the first film we laughed at the situations Bridget always seemed to find her in here we find ourselves laughing at her for constantly letting herself get caught in on predicament after another. In her job in British television Bridget is subject to one stunt after another. She is forced to jump from an airplane, ski, is sent to Thailand where she gets arrested for smuggling drugs and forced to endure mortification after mortification. Add to this the ever increasing self doubts and we have a central character that is, as the title suggests, beyond all reason. The writers took what was endearing about the original and exaggerate past the remotely believable removing the all important ability of the audience to emotionally connect with Bridget.
The object of Bridget’s love, or perhaps obsession, is Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a rather boring man but a man none the less. Bridget relates to her diary that they have made love 71 times and after six weeks he still hasn’t proposed. Add to this insecurity a thin and beautiful young woman, Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett) who co course is Mark’s assistant and in Bridget’s mind her rival. Bridget also has a good measure of delusion working against her. She actually feels her job in this stunt oriented television show classifies her as a serious journalist. As if wasn’t enough Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), Bridget’s ex-lover is still very much on the scene. While these qualities can make for an enjoyable film if they where held to good measure instead of overwhelming the flick.
That’s not to say that this film is without amusing moments, they are there but the script lacks the focus to make the most out of them. The plot line of Bridget’s jealousy of Rebecca actually is a nice spoof within a spoof focusing on our society’s obsession with being thin. Bridget is not really fat; she is thin in comparison to the many obese people in America today. There is something always funny about slapstick comedy, sure it’s laughing at the pain of others but it is classic. The situations may be unrealistic overall but one reason for going to a film like this is to be transported out of our own lives and feel better about ourselves by comparison. You don’t watch this film for intellectual stimulation, you watch to sit back and laugh.
In a film with a very light plot if you are to succeed at all you need a strong cast. The bright spot of this film is without doubt Renée Zellweger. She has such a natural sense of inhabiting Bridget that I found myself drawn into her life despite the unrealistic situations. Speaking to female friends about her portrayal of Ms Jones the most often heard comment was Zellweger made Bridget a real woman, albeit an exaggerated one. They admitted that such self deprecation is normal. Concerns about weight, stressing over relationships and career, modern life has taken its toll on the fairer gender. As a man I found Zellweger’s presentation a refreshing change of pace from the all too perfect women usually shown on the screen. As a father of a daughter I have to applaud showing a young woman that does not look like a skeleton but at the same time I dismay that adding a few pounds became such a media event. Colin Firth paints a one color portrait of Mark. The burning passion that the couple originally had has now settled into routine and Firth plays Mark as happy with the situation, counterpoint to Bridget’s ire. Jacinda Barrett has the job of looking beautiful but unfortunately is not provided an opportunity to show her acting abilities. Hugh Grant works well in his role but why wouldn’t he do well here, Grant has been playing the same basic variation on a theme throughout his career, the rakish, handsome man that gets by on looks.
Director Beeban Kidron didn’t really have much to work with here but did the best she could none the less. She has talent, just watch her earlier films like Antonia and Jane and Used People. With Edge of Reason there is too much pressure to do too much with very little. The film appears to try to spoof too many popular genres, the action flick in the sky diving sequence, a strange homage to Breakdown Palace with the drug arrest and the British sit-com in numerous scenes. The pacing is uneven with too much forced angst mixed with the laughs. Her direction may have been better if she took the direction of ‘Into the Woods’, a look at what occurs subsequent to ‘happily ever after’. There is just a tad of meandering here.
The DVD comes off as well mastered. The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 although the rear speakers serve mostly for ambience, typical of this genre of film. Overall the sound stage is well balanced and suites the material. The anamorphic video release is clean and devoid of defects. The color palette is realistic with excellent separation between light and dark. This is a must have for true die hard fans of the original and while it doesn’t live up to that high bar it does have it’s own charm.