Bridget Jones’s Diary

renee zellweger bridge jonesBased ever so loosely on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this 2001 British romantic comedy directed by Sharon Maguire is full of hits and misses.  The hits are all punches thrown between the two men who seek Bridget’s attention and the misses are all those single women who wish they had a choice between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.

Adapted by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies, and Richard Curtis from Fielding’s popular novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), a single woman in her early thirties looking for love. She works at a publishing house in London, under the direction of Daniel Cleaver (Grant), a real hottie that she’d like to get her hands on.  Over Christmas, her mother tries to set her up with former childhood neighbor Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Get it? Darcy. Firth. Nudge nudge wink wink. Of course, he very aloof and disdainful and she dislikes him immediately.

Right from the beginning, you know it isn’t going to be anything like Pride and Prejudice. Bridget is drunk half the time, smokes constantly, burbling, bumbling, and making a fool out of herself every five minutes. NOT Lizzy Bennet.

Setting her sights on her boss, she begins wearing short skirts and see-through blouses and exchanging flirtatious emails with him. He, of course, responds. When they see Darcy at a party, Daniel tells Bridget that Darcy once stole his fiancée from him. Wickham, eh? They go away for a weekend and there’s that darned Darcy again. On the verge of meeting Bridget’s parents, Daniel abandons her, explaining that he has important work at the office. Not so. He’s actually having an affair with a woman from the New York branch of the publishing company and Bridget finds the woman at his flat.

She dumps him and there is Darcy, immediately interested.

Parts of the movie are quite funny, but most of the humor depends on Bridget’s putting herself in embarrassing situations, which she does over and over. Personally, I don’t care for that kind of humor, just as I don’t care for novels that depend on the stupidity of their protagonists to make a plot. It was hugely popular for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the sophomoric humor and the beautiful people. It didn’t win any major awards, although Zellweger was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. (It’s funny that British actors routinely play American roles without getting props for how expertly they handle the accent, yet when a Texan plays a Brit everyone makes a big fuss about it. Frankly, I didn’t find it as believable as everyone else. Kind of like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, there was something that just didn’t completely ring true.)

The supporting cast is wonderful. I loved Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent as Bridget’s parents. Embeth Davidtz, Shirley Henderson, James Callis, and Lisa Barbuscia are all excellent and add to the fun.

There is one other carry-over from the great BBC Pride and Prejudice besides Colin Firth: the screenwriter for that masterpiece, Andrew Davies, collaborated on the script for Bridget Jones’s Diary.

At 98 minutes, it’s a funny, entertaining evening, without having to exercise the brain at all.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss PettigrewLondon in 1939 was a hodgepodge of pre-war jitters. Depression era soup kitchens operated down the block from posh nightclubs for the rich and the middle class worked to scratch out a decent living.

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), a middle-aged spinsterish daughter of a vicar gets fired from her job as a governess. Rushing up the street with her suitcase, she bumps into a man just getting out of prison, Michael Pardue (Lee Pace).  Frightened, she runs away, leaving her suitcase in the street.  Standing in a soup kitchen that night, she sees fashion mogul Edythe Dubarry (Shirley Henderson) kissing someone in an alley. When Edythe sees she’s being watched, she takes her lover and leaves.

The next morning, Miss Pettigrew goes to her employment agency, but they turn her away because she’s lost every job they sent her on. She steals the business card of American nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) from her agent’s desk, hoping she can arrive first and steal the job. Delysia is in a state.  It’s nearly ten o’clock in the morning and she must get a producer’s son, Phil Goldman (Tom Payne) from her bed before her sugar daddy, Nick Calderelli (Mark Strong) arrives. She hopes that bedding Phil will get her the lead role in his new West End musical.  She’s using him, just as she’s using nightclub owner Nick for her wardrobe and apartment.

Jumping into action as Delysia’s new social secretary, Miss Pettigrew manages to gently evict Phil and stall Nick because Delysia must attend a fashionable lingerie show. At the show, Delysia introduces her to Edythe, who doesn’t recognize her right away.  She also meets lingerie designer Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds) who has been engaged to Edythe.  Delysia and Edythe give Miss Pettigrew a complete make-over.  Recognizing her at last, Edythe blackmails Miss Pettigrew into smoothing things over with Joe, even though she had been unfaithful to him, threatening to reveal that she knows Guinevere is actually penniless.

When they get back to the apartment, Michael is there. It turns out that he is the pianist that accompanies Delysia in her nightclub act.  They are in love, but Delysia persists in using the other men to further his career.  Michael gives her one last chance.  He has tickets on a boat to America and is leaving the next morning.  He begs her to join him and take their act to Manhattan.

This is just the beginning of a rip-roaring comedy filled with delightful performances. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, the film was adapted by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy from the 1938 novel by treasured British novelist Winifred Watson.  Scandalous when it was first released, the movie is quite tame by today’s standards, but still very amusing.  Nalluri shows a very deft touch in the directing, mixing tracking shots with steady cam to create a beautiful and tight movie.  In addition, the music is truly special, capturing the feeling of the time perfectly.  The art direction is fantastic, using upscale art deco side by side with the bleak depression era streets.

Frances McDormand, is, as usual, brilliant. She remains one of our finest actresses and infuses Miss Pettigrew with both restrained priggishness and down-to-earth humanity.  In spite of her upbringing, she is open to the friendship that Delysia gives to her.  Amy Adams is wonderful as the flibbertygibbet Delysia and she bonds with McDormand very well.  They make an amazing comedy team and yet both display great emotion with a restrained script.  The two of them make the movie, but all of the male co-stars are also terrific.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a truly entertaining movie that fans of McDormand and Adams will be proud to own. It can be watched over and over with a deepening level of enjoyment.  I highly recommend the film!