A smashing good picture, mate
Unlock 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
(CNN) -- Renee Zellweger is dazzling as the irrepressible star of "Bridget Jones's Diary," the highly anticipated film adaptation of Helen Fielding's international bestseller.
A tempest-in-a-teapot took place in England when this decidedly American actress was cast as Bridget Jones, a fictional icon to thirtysomething single women all over Britain. It seems many Britons felt only an actress born and bred on English sod could do justice to the role.
Zellweger -- a native of Texas, who co-stars alongside two famous Brits, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth -- has proven her critics wrong, wrong, wrong.
The lady can act. With the help of dialogue coach Barbara Berkery (she's worked with Gwyneth Paltrow on "Emma" (1996), "Shakespeare In Love" (1998) and "Sliding Doors" (1998), Zellweger nails Jones's London accent while simultaneously delivering a performance bursting with power and brimming with heartfelt emotion.
Through it all Zellweger never loses Bridget's sense of innocence and wonder, though both traits are sorely strained during the character's year-long journey to self-discovery.
Resolutions made ... but kept?
The story follows Bridget from one New Year's Eve to the next as she makes a number of resolutions to change her life for the better. Through her daily entries, we follow Bridget's trials and tribulations as a single woman in her thirties. We also meet the two men in her life: Daniel Cleaver (a cad, he's played by Grant) and Mark Darcy (an uptight barrister portrayed by Firth), who compete for -- and at times destroy -- her affections.
Yes, Bridget's quest for love is a rocky one, though it takes no time at all for viewers to be smitten with her. By the time the opening credits end -- in which Bridget is sprawled on a sofa in her tiny London flat, lip-synching her heart out to Jamie O'Neal singing "All By Myself" -- you'll find yourself enchanted with this woman who overeats, drinks too much, smokes like a chimney and suffers from a severe case of verbal diarrhea.
Yes, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is aimed at a female audience. No, the book never was on the required-reading list for the soccer lads down at the local pub. Yes, the film follows suit.
Sparkling dialogue, superb acting
But it also features richly written dialogue -- penned by Fielding, along with Richard Curtis (1994's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and 1999's "Notting Hill"), and Andrew Davies (1995's "Circle of Friends" and the current "Tailor of Panama"). The acting is excellent and everyone is perfectly cast.
The film is not faultless. While the writers have captured Fielding's sparkling rhythm with words, they've created a bit of havoc with the plotline. In the screenplay, Bridget's friends -- her "urban family" -- are a constant source of comfort and support. In the film, they're cut back to a bare minimum, and they're sorely missed.
In an effort to create tension and jeopardy, the screenwriters stretched credibility a bit too far. Bridget and her lovers continually fall apart, get back together, then fall apart, get back together, and so on and so on. This repetitive use of the old "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" gambit is not in the book. Its use in the film not only gets tedious, it also contributes to the movie's other shortcoming: It's too long.
The story is also highly predictable ... but so are most romantic comedies featuring an emotional triangle. Somebody always gets left out in the cold as the other two walk off into the sunset.
Adding to the confusion over the what was and wasn't included in the film is this little fact: Some of the plot has been lifted from "The Edge of Reason," Fielding's second Bridget Jones book.
Criticisms aside, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is still a highly enjoyable movie-going experience. Zellweger is achingly honest and vulnerable as Bridget. And Grant is excellent playing a villain -- a refreshing change after watching him in all those wimpy, droopy-haired, doe-eyed romantic leads following Grant's spectacular success in "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
An interesting aside: Grant and his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, are longtime friends of the author. Another behind-the-scenes connection is Fielding's friendship with film director Sharon Maguire. The two have been close for years, and "Bridget" is Maguire's feature film debut as a director. She has now traveled the well-worn path from directing television commercials to directing motion pictures, and she's done quite well. Maguire obviously has feeling for this material, and it shows in her deft direction.
Film buffs may also note the last name of the character played by Firth -- Darcy. That makes him "Mister Darcy," which also is the name of the character he played in the acclaimed 1995 BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice." That's the project that made him a star.
And Zellweger? If she weren't already a star, this role surely would make her one.
"Bridget Jones's Diary" opens nationwide Friday, April 13. Rated R.
'Bridget Jones's Diary' - official site
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