I’m a chronic procrastinator and like to stay on brand, which is why I waited 20 years to watch Bridget Jones’s Diary. Until now all I knew about the movie was based on just ads, images, or pop culture references that Bridget had a red notebook, loved two men (or they loved her? Who knows!) and wore granny panties.
What I didn’t expect was for this to be a Christmas movie. BJD is a Christmas movie. This is a fact. There are holiday parties and sweaters, winter, snow, snowmen ties, running in the snow in panties to deliver a heartfelt speech to the man you love. This is the ultimate Christmas movie, the Die Hard of rom-coms, and if you disagree, you’re waging a war on Christmas spirit itself.
“It all began on New Year’s Day on my 32nd year of being single,” Bridget says while walking through a blizzard to her mom’s house for the annual turkey curry buffet. Yes, technically it’s after the holidays but the holiday vibes are as palpable as the turkey curry.
Not to mention, Colin Firth looking deadpan and bored in a festive reindeer sweater is all the holiday cheer this Jew needs.
There’s more to this romantic comedy, based on a book by Helen Fielding, who based that pretty loosely on Pride and Prejudice. Renée Zellweger completely nails the role of 32-year-old “spinster” Bridget Jones, who drinks, smokes, and journals her way into the hearts of two dashing (that’s British for hot) men. One is her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), and the other one is an estranged childhood family friend who seems not to be amused by her endearing vices, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, who is very tall. I didn’t know this).
As Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, this movie makes no sense (where’s Bingley?) but on its own, it’s actually really fun and ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s the old Millennial in me, but this was like taking a time capsule to an era where 32 was old, 136 pounds was fat, and anyone over 30 and single is a spinster. I loved every nostalgic minute of it.
I forgot how much movies tried to convince us that Hugh Grant is hot. Maybe he is, or was, but looking back on all the movies where he’s played a leading man – Two Weeks Notice, Notting Hill – he seems more like a caricature of what British people think Americans think is hot. I’ll admit, he did it for me 15 years ago when I was younger and naive, but I’m older and wiser now and like any mature woman, it’s Colin Firth who I’d let ruin me.
But OK fine, he’s hot here.
But let’s dig deeper. All Bridget and her mom, Pam (Gemma Jones), want is for Bridget to get a boyfriend, so Pam keeps trying to introduce her to “bushy-haired middle-aged bores.” This is actually really sweet. My mother was desperate to marry me off, but all she did was whine about it and not once did she invite over some hot uptight Colin Firth-esque divorcee for me to meet. Just walked around the house moping and repeating “what a waste” under her breath.
Meanwhile Bridget’s mom literally leaves her husband to have a fling with an unnaturally tanned Home Shopping Network host because her domestic life is not all it’s cracked up to be, yet here she is totally fine with pushing Bridget towards possibly the same fate. Because let me tell you, marriage even with someone you love is difficult. That’s why no one makes “romantic comedies” about married couples with children. Those, at best, are just “comedies.”
After overhearing Mark Darcy talk smack behind her back at the turkey curry buffet, Bridget vows to improve herself by losing weight, drinking and smoking less, and documenting it all in a book. Thus, Bridget Jones’s diary.
I’m definitely into this in a way I didn’t expect to be, especially because I love the cast, every single one. What I’m not into is this whole “Bridget is sad and pathetic because she doesn’t have a boyfriend” nonsense. I get this was how society viewed women back then, but how did we fall for it even at the time? She’s cute, fun, confident with flawless skin, and has a job that apparently pays enough for her to afford a whimsical London apartment and endless packs of cigarettes and wine. On top of that, she’s sleeping with her attractive boss who doesn’t expect or want anything from her, has parents who love her, and has friends who support her and insist on taking weekend trips to Paris to help her get over a man.
I ask you, in what world does this seem like a pathetic single woman destined for a life of spinsterhood? To me, who’s not single and has like only two friends who never invite me anywhere let alone Paris, Bridget is living her best life. No notes.
Despite her determination to self-improve, she keeps eating, drinking, and smoking. She eventually – and predictably – falls in love with her boss only to discover he’s cheating on her with some thin young American woman (not my words, Bridget keeps tabs on everyone’s weight and age) on the day he was supposed to meet her family at a “tarts and vicars” themed party. Except the theme was canceled, but Bridget didn’t get the memo.
Hmm, where have I seen the Playboy bunny costume before?
Elle in Legally Blonde also showed up in the exact same outfit to a party she was told was a costume theme. These movies were released a few months apart. Were they filming at the same time? How did they have the exact same idea? What is the significance of the Playboy bunny outfit? Do men find this attractive? Should I invest in this? I’m sure if Twitter existed in 2001, this would not have gone unnoticed.
Also, why was there a family “tarts and vicars” party? I know Bridget’s creepy “uncle” planned it probably to see her dressed as a prostitute, but wouldn’t any sane family member jump in and say “that’s gross. I don’t want to see Aunt Shirley dressed as a whore”?
Poor Aunt Shirley. Didn’t get the memo either but understood the assignment.
Meanwhile, Bridget keeps running into Mark Darcy, who she doesn’t like because Daniel has lied about Darcy’s nefarious past behavior (I guess he is Mr. Wickham) and made her – dare I say it – prejudiced against Darcy.
Finally Mr. Darcy slowly starts to grow on her, especially after telling her at a couples dinner which she attended alone (just say no, jeez) that he likes her just the way she is. (I think this is the part of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice where Darcy is getting drenched in the rain and telling Elizabeth he loves her despite all the horrible things about her and her family.) Later on, he hooks her up with an exclusive interview to help her move up at her new TV gig and then stops by her apartment on her birthday to cook dinner and meet her friends. Of course Daniel shows up, too, all sad and repentant, and the two men have a very polite British fight at a Greek restaurant.
Eventually through her mom, Bridget learns that it was actually Daniel who ran off with Mr. Darcy’s wife and not the other way around. (Why didn’t she offer this information earlier?) Now Bridget is the sad repentant one, but also she is too late because Darcy is moving to New York for a new job and is engaged to some woman named Natasha.
Psych! He leaves it all behind – job, fiance, subway rats – to come back for Bridget just as she’s about to get in the car and head out to Paris with her friends. Which she doesn’t. (Honestly, she could have just said, “I’m going to Paris. Let’s make out real quick and touch base when I get back next week.” What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic.)
They go upstairs to get it on and he discovers her red notebook, where she wrote all these mean things about him when she thought he was a jerk. He storms off into the blizzard. She runs after him in her underwear, sneakers, and coat, and finally catches up with him to say all the things you expect. When she’s done, he brings out a new journal and says it’s for her to get a fresh start, or something like that. Well played, Mr. Darcy. (Again, could have just said, “I’m going to grab something from the store BRB” instead of leaving abruptly.)
They finally make out and when Bridget comes up for air, she says, “Nice boys don’t kiss like that,” and Mr. Darcy says,
If that isn’t a heartwarming Christmas message, I don’t know what is.