October 24, 2016
” It’s a movie about women and their complexity. There are certain points that women audiences will have a more comprehensive understanding on Bridget Jones Baby.”
Bridget is in labor! She now has a baby! Of her own!
Do I spoil the story? I’m confidently saying that I don’t spoil anything for telling you that Bridget Jones has a baby. The title says it all and it’s been on the news websites since December 2015. How can tell something that’s been a public knowledge considered as ‘spoiler’, the highest crime in cinematic experience?
And fortunately, Bridget Jones Baby’s opening scene keeps the tradition.
Our beloved Bridget Jones (by the one and only, Renee Zellwegger) sat by herself in a low light living room of her apartment. Her companies were just candle(s), a glass of wine, and a cupcake. It was her 43rd birthday. Yet she was all alone. There was no Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) with her. What happened? What did we miss after 12 years? She was wondering about her love life and we were about to hear her theme song of loneliness, Celine Dion’s All By Myself, a ballad that’s been representing her image for more than a decade. But, she decided to change the tune. Instead, we then listened to House of Pain’s Jump Around and watched her dance along to the music. Vigorously.
We smile because we’re seeing a character we’re familiar with. But we know, as she grows older, she has changed.
It’s been twelve years since the last time Bridget Jones, a likable self-mockery and self-pitiful fictional Englishwoman character based on Helen Fielding’s chick lit novels, entertained us on the big screen. Coincidently, it’s also been a few years since Renee Zellweger last appearance in movies. There’s a feel of longing and nostalgic in that opening scene. So, watching it is like seeing an old colleague we haven’t met for a long time. We’d like to say hi and know her story. Is she still an alcoholic and a frantic smoker? How’s her work and career? How is her love story going? What is it with the word of “baby” in her new title?
Bridget Jones is now a news producer in a television station she works for years. She’s no longer a quirky and awkward reporter like we saw in the inferior Bridget Jones : The Edge of Reason (2004). She’d like to claim herself as “top news producer”. She now looks slimmer and more mature. Gone are her balloon cheeks. But she’s still a 43 years old spinster. She’s also no longer Mark Darcy’s girlfriend, who married to a girl named Camilla (Brits hates women name Camilla for some reason. Camilla Parker Bowles, remember?). She hasn’t lost her goofiness, though. She even manages to do a “silly instruction” for her news anchor when she makes a phone call with one of her long friends.
One day, Bridget and her news anchor friend, Miranda, attended a rock camp festival at Glastonbury. Although she’s a “top news producer”, she fails to recognize Ed Sheeran ( that famous young British pop star, made a cameo role here) when she and her friend wanted to take their picture. She prefers Tony Bennett over Ed Sheeran whom she calls “someone she thinks she’s seen him once at Starbuck”. How could a top news producer like her know nothing about Ed Sheeran and contemporary pop music?
She’s Bridget Jones, anyway. She can do anything she wants, right?
After an embarrassing “the creature from the black lagoon” incident, Bridget Jones meets a hunk named Jack (Patrick Dempsey), an American online-dating-guru-millionaire who claims that he has found a perfect algorithm for matching a couple. That event followed by another “incident’ in Jack’s tent where Bridget and him playing around with his “puppet” for a few hours of delightful sex.
In Bridget Jones’ defense, she thought that she just acts as, “an elegant older woman taking a man for her own pleasure.” But she also admits that sometimes it feels scary still being on her own at 43.
Later, Bridget Jones meets her old beau, the British nobleman everybody loves, Mark Darcy. She makes love to him, too. Until one day, Bridget Jones finds herself pregnant.
The conflict is started here. The “who-done-it” question surrounding who’s the actual biological father of her baby, like we once saw in Mamma Mia (also a Colin Firth starred movie).
A Franchise, Post-Modern Feminism, and the Inconsistency
Bridget Jones story has established itself as a franchise. So it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if we will see a lot of familiar scenes from the previous installments. We will see Bridget’ Christmas family gathering or the scene in which Bridget tries to deliver a professional speech or presentation that would become a scandal like we saw in Bridget Jones Diary and its 2004 sequel.
Good and popular pop songs are also always being part of a Bridget Jones’ movie trademark. Here, you can hear various tunes, from Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud to Jesse Gylnne’s Hold My Hand, as another populist choice to relate the story to younger audiences.
A Bridget Jones movie is always a comedy focus on her embarrassments. The director, Sharon Maguire who also directed the first movie, understands it completely. Working on a screenplay by trio Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Oscar-winning actress and scriptwriter, Emma Thompson (who plays Bridget’s gynecologist here), Sharon doesn’t shy away from the previous concept. The embarrassing moments make Bridget Jones character feels earthy. But, when the story tries to place her as the center of affection and work ethic, it seems like it’s trying too hard and inconsistent with her actual behavior.
At several scenes, Bridget screws up her works by doing something, clearly, unprofessional. Like when she mixes up her presentation and interview subjects for her TV program. Her faults are something that clearly being a habit. How could a person like her be a producer, the highest rank in television business? Her professional status, then, is more like a validation for her mature age. Sure, later, Bridget receives the consequences she should’ve had for all the trouble she has made. But when the punishment comes to her, she even manages to deliver a speech about ‘integrity’. What kind of integrity should we expect to learn from her? The decision to put her as the center of every universe, unfortunately, makes her less loveable. Instead, I see her as a spoiled irresponsible egotist woman. The more the script pretends that she’s everything to everyone, the more illogical it seems.
There’s enough Emma Thompson’s touch in Bridget Jones Baby. Thompson is the one who wrote the screenplay for Ang Lee’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Emma’s last minute involvement in polishing the screenplay obviously pumps up the quality. Emma provides witty and hilarious social commentaries that feel relatable with current issues. Like Bridget Jones’ hilarious remarks on “hipster style” of her new young boss and co-workers. There’s also some serious feminist issues (as Emma put in her Sense and Sensibility screenwriting) in scenes where Mark Darcy (a famous humanitarian barrister) defending his new client, a “Pussy Riot” alike rebellious female punk group who yank their shirts off and snarl around London screaming out their protest to men dominated society.
Emma, indeed, loves to play around with the idea of the power a woman has upon men. Bridget Jones who’s expecting a baby, either Mark’s or Jack’s, shown as a woman blessed with the benefit of the doubt. There are funny scenes in which Mark and Jack are trying to show their genuine concern to the pregnant Bridget. This situation of ambiguity also creates some other humorous moments when Bridget attempts to keep Mark and Jack bumping into each other and learning the truth.
A story and character like Bridget Jones is created by women as their idealistic concept of how men should treat them. The concept of men should take every woman as they who really are, not just based on their physical appearance. And I’m nothing against it.
But the concept of post-modern feminism in Bridget Jones Baby is such a huge contrary to how the heroine behaves. Bridget is the person who declares that woman can take a man for their own pleasure. But yet, Bridget easily gives up when she’s experiencing a hard time. She doesn’t want to take advantages from her pregnancy, but yet she demands a help from guys when she wants to do a routine medical check-up.
The concept of feminism in Bridget Jones Baby gets more confusing when she, in labor, can’t get through female protesters who march along the streets and she needs to be carried by males (who stagger under her weight). The movie, at most of its times, is trying to be innovative, but then trapped in rom-com cliché. Like the times of Bridget gets trapped in traffic jam.
Put all that logical fallacy aside, Bridget Jones Baby’ irresistible charms come from its actors. Well, most of them.
Renee Zellwegger is always the pitch-perfect as Bridget. She has that kind of self-deprecating awareness that produces the comedy of manners. I’m kinda surprised when I found out her passage of time would be perfectly blended into Bridget’s personality. We can sense the feeling of a woman who’s afraid of her aging. Renee, herself, has been the object of media scrutiny for her aging physical appearance. Media loves to objectify her choice to have plastic surgery procedure. Renee, like Bridget, is a woman who has to face the call of nature, when the age slowly takes over her prime. Renee reflects her worrisome in Bridget. A 40’s something woman who lives in a man’s world.
And should we talk about Colin Firth? He’s the only actor I think of when it comes to a posh British male character who has elegance, intellectual, and sexiness at the same time. His Mark Darcy and Kingsman’s Galahad are the proof. Colin Firth is such an obvious choice for every female in Bridget Jones Baby, it’s because Patrick Dempsey can’t even match his aristocracy persona.
Mark Darcy is Sex and the City’s Mr. Big for Bridget Jones. I always have troubles to understand Bridget Jones’ perplexity in choosing him over other male characters.
I remember when I watched Bridget Jones Diary and its sequel with some friends back in my early years in college. Some of them were my female colleagues. I and my male friends addressed the confusion we had seeing Bridget’s confusion and dilemma over Mark Darcy or Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver. In our opinion, the choice was supposed to be easy. Mark Darcy was an absolute choice.
Our female colleagues provided the simple and effective answer to our cynical criticism, “ You guys simply do not understand women.”
We were shut out immediately. The answer was simple, but yet indescribable. And it describes what Bridget Jones movies are always about.
It’s a movie about women and their complexity. There are certain points that make women audiences will have a more comprehensive understanding on Bridget Jones Baby. The movie speaks to them, in the way male audiences (probably) can’t fully fathom. But the movie also has some genuinely funny moments that will have us laughed and had fun. For all its worth, Bridget Jones is like the old friend we’d like to hang around with. We simply can’t resist her charms.
Reviewed at Gandaria XXI on October 21, 2016
Imported and distributed for Indonesia market by PT. Omega Film
A Universal/Studiocanal/Miramax presentation of a Working Title production in association with Perfect World Pictures.
Producers : Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward
Executive producers : Amelia Granger, Liza Chasin, Helen Fielding
Director : Sharon Maguire
Screenplay : Emma Thompson, Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer,
based on characters created by Helen Fielding
Camera (color, widescreen) : Andrew Dunn
Editor : Melanie Ann Oliver
Casts : Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Emma Thompson, Shirley Henderson, Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie, James Callis, Sarah Solemani, Gemma Jones, Sally Phillips