Bridget Jones’ Baby: A wee bit late?
Quite a surprise this one; while the earlier two movies (Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) were based on the books, this one has a story idea all to itself and is going to shake up Jones’ watchers all right.
The opening shot sees Ms Jones (Renee Zellwegger) celebrating her 43rd birthday alone in her little flat and slowly, the plot begins to unfold. For starters, apparently Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) Bridget’s former boss and boyfriend, has kicked the bucket. Attending his church memorial service, she finds that Mark Darcy (Colin Firth again) has also made an appearance and, much to her shock, a much-married Darcy now, which leaves ole Bridge ruminating on whether she was perhaps a tad too hasty in letting the man go.
We are informed that the erstwhile scatter-brained Bridget is now a responsible television producer. Her best friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) takes her to an Ed Sheeran (playing himself) music festival over the weekend as a birthday celebration, where a drunk Bridget ends up spending the night with a complete stranger, Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey.)
Back in London, Bridget bumps into Mark Darcy again at her godchild’s christening and he tells her he has filed for divorce. One thing leads to another and they wind up having sex. A few weeks later, she realises she is pregnant. Now the merry-go-round begins, as daft Bridget hasn’t a clue which of the two men might be the father. She informs both of them and they start playing a one-upmanship game to upstage the other, even attending Lamaze classes and doctor’s appointments. Bridget is not quite sure which one she’d like to be the proud papa but, after some dithering, she finds her heart beats faster for Darcy and Jack nobly bows before the inevitable. Finally – and all Darcy fans can heave a huge sigh of relief here – in this movie Bridget does marry him. Just when you thought it was safe to leave, the camera pans for the closing shot on to a newspaper article saying that missing millionaire Daniel Cleaver has been found alive and well!
Speaking of said Daniel (Hugh Grant) the story (sic!) goes that he disliked the script of Bridget Jones’ Baby even though it was penned by the author of the Bridget Jones series – Helen Fielding – and so refused to have anything to do with this movie. Indeed, his presence is felt only by implied references and his photograph. Subsequently, Emma Thompson was brought in to rework the script. One must admit the dialogues are racy and keep the funny bone tickled: “Dear God, Bridget, you’re immense,” puffs Darcy in his posh Brit accent as he struggles to carry a Jones-in-labour in his arms. Using a pizza delivery van to get heavily pregnant Bridget to hospital was a stroke of comic genius, so also when both panting fathers-to-be heave Jones on to the receptionist’s counter. The scene in the television studio where Bridget’s friend is trying to get Jack’s hair samples for a DNA test was handled very well, as also the bathroom scene between Bridget and Sarah where, in typical Jones’ overkill, she has bought a bagful of pregnancy test kits. The director must be commended for keeping the newborn baby scene as realistic as possible, where the baby quite literally seems to be a newborn, still covered in gunk and goo.
Sarah Solemani is very entertaining in her character; an apt casting here. Jim Broadbent as Colin Jones and Gemma Jones as Pamela Jones have played Bridget’s parents in the earlier movies too and it is a nice, comforting feel to have that continuity maintained. Surprise! Emma Thompson (the scriptwriter) plays the role of Dr Rawlings, Bridget’s long-suffering gynaecologist and does a dashed good job. Her expressions and dry, acerbic wit do able justice to the pithy dialogues. All kudos for juggling two hats successfully – for a writer to act as well is a marvellous way forward for us pen pushers!
Hmm. Now to the bad news department. Renee Zellwegger looks old, quite old. So does Colin Firth, but his character was always this staid, plodding thing and so it doesn’t matter much in his case but Jones, ahh, Jones… Jones is supposed to be clumsy, chirpy, effervescent, a bit of a ninny, if you will, and Zellwegger, who fit the bill so beautifully in the prequels, is not able to carry off the charming ingenue anymore. She doesn’t do coy well, either. Disappointingly, this is a much thinner Bridget than we’re used to seeing and it doesn’t go with the character we’ve all come to know and love. Also, Jones as a responsible career woman does not sit too well with us; the loopy Bridget is more lovable. It would be safe to say that most of the time she comes across as somewhat tired and one gets the impression that she herself is somewhat mortified to be playing Bridget at this age; Zellwegger is 47 now and the last Bridget Jones movie was out in 2004! Her looks leave me stumped too; while one does get to see frown lines and wrinkles, which puts the lie to Botox, there are scenes where she seems unable to move her face and the expression is more of a fixed grimace, while her eyes seem to have become slits in the folds of her cheeks. Strange, that.
Now Patrick Dempsey – ooh, wowzie, mama mia. I think half the women in the audience were ready to go off with him if he but blinked in their direction. Patrick manages to carry off his role of a rakish millionaire with elan and holds his own strongly as a newcomer in a film where the rest of the cast feels like family.
Colin Firth is very much the British stiff-upper-jaw Darcy and literally breezes through a role that, of course, has been written with him in mind although, judging by his interviews, he too expressed some reservations in the delay of this sequel.
Music is by Craig Armstrong, cinematography by Andrew Dunn and editing by Melanie Ann Oliver. No complaints here. Directed by Sharon Maguire who also handles the earlier two movies, there is no doubt that there are laughs a-plenty in Bridget Jones’ Baby but equally undeniably, there is that niggling feeling of something missing. It’s like when you keep worrying an aching tooth with your tongue, wondering what the dickens is wrong and hoping like hell it will bounce back to normal again.
*Written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India