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Bridget Jones's Diary review

Bridget Jones's Diary
15certificate 15
Running time: 90 minutes
Rating 8 out of 10
There are many reasons to imagine why the film of Bridget Jones's Diary might be a disaster. Firstly there's Mad Cows Disease (smash hit book becomes dismal comedy peppered with irritating performances by British TV stars). Then there's the Yanks abroad factor - how dare they cast an American in such a quintessentially English role and why shouldn't it fail (Dick van Dyke, Costner in Prince of Thieves)? Finally, how many more dire so-called romantic comedies (the recent Born Romantic being a particularly poor example) about young(ish) Londoners looking for love can the British public stomach?

Fortunately the people who made Bridget Jones's Diary must have thought about all these questions and more, and come up with all the right answers. For this is an unabashed success of a film, one which ranks right up there with Four Weddings and Notting Hill as a British comedy with enormous international appeal. Thanks to a zippy script, nigh on perfect casting and assured and pacey direction the result is a fluffy piece of escapism of the highest order.

The big question of course surrounds the casting of Renee Zellweger in the role of modern Britain's icon of female angst. Zellweger is an actress very much on the up, and has been highly impressive in recent films such as Nurse Betty and One True Thing after coming to prominence opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. She is undoubtedly talented, is beautiful and looks as though she could live on your street. Fuller-figured than in her recent work, Zellweger wholly embodies the spirit of the 'getting on and very single' diarist seeking the man of her dreams in a world which appears to be solely occupied by highly irritating couples whose first question is always 'how's your love life darling?' She is often sullen, often hopeless, often embarrassing, but most importantly she is human, imperfect and wants to be loved.

The quality of the rest of the cast is also perfect. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth assume their roles as Bridget's potential suitors with a great deal of panache and hilarity. Grant, stuck with hair that will give him forever the look of a dandy highwayman, breaks away from his bumbling nervy Englishman style to play Daniel Cleaver, the serial shagger who runs the publishing house where Bridget works as a PR assistant. Cleaver is the kind of guy who walks into a room and assumes that every woman wants to take him to bed, and unfortunately for his ego his assumption proves to be correct. Bridget is putty in his hands and his wooing of her is one of the film's comedic high points (of which there are several).

Firth, on the other hand, plays the aloof barrister Mark Darcy, who initially regards Bridget as little more than a twit and wanders through the film with the weight of the world on his shoulders (or the weight of being continually forced to play heartthrobs called Darcy). The two would-be boyfriends are perfect opposites, and even a ludicrously over-the-top fight scene between them is a success thanks to the way they work together.

The laugh out loud scenes are not just confined to the three central characters. There is the amusing premise of Bridget's mother running off with the man from the cable shopping channel and leaving Dad (Jim Broadbent) in a smoke-filled gloom. Bridget's friends (good support from Shirley Henderson and Sally Phillips) provide a litany of f-words, and the set pieces consistently raise a laugh.

This is not a film which to change the world except to make it a happier place, and it is not one that tries to give a message or lesson to take away. It's romantic comedy at its best, funny and endearing for a snappy ninety minutes and a film which should have enormous (and deserved) popular appeal through word-of-mouth.

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