Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) certainly looks her age! The opening shots of everyone’s favourite spinster celebrating her 43rd birthday, alone in her flat, are not flattering. Zellweger’s skin looks creased and crumpled, as withered as lacklustre parchment. However, she does look like the Bridget that we know and love from the previous films, which is a relief. Those photos of Zellweger taken a couple of years ago when everyone – except Zellweger herself – said that she’d had cosmetic surgery depicted a stranger purporting to be Zellweger. Zellweger channels the Bridget role that she has made her own: labile facial expressions and squinty eyes, with a sweetly posh British accent. And Bridget has finally got the chunky-monkey off her back in this film – she’s svelte … that is, until her pregnancy begins to show!
There are several charming and funny moments in the film. The antics of Bridget and the two men in her life, while stuck in a revolving door of the hospital, are ‘laugh-out-loud” funny. Amusing, too, is the realisation that dawns on the audience, and each of Daniel Cleaver’s conquests (assembled at a memorial service), that he used the same lines over, and over again, on every new woman he seduced. Emma Thompson is brilliant as Bridget’s gynaecologist; for instance, in one scene when Thompson’s character walks alongside a baby daddy, they unexpectedly see Bridget getting cosy with another man. With just the right amount of awkwardness, Thompson has the character perform a hilarious and outlandish verbal pirouette to try to explain the encounter they’ve just witnessed. Thompson’s masterful play of microexpressions and vocal intonation manages to convey the character’s discomfort at being drawn into this polyamorous family situation. There are plenty of moments of levity and comic pleasure which the film serves up for the audience to feast on, yet, concurrent with that, I felt a sour aftertaste from some sharply tainted aspects.
Scriptwriters Emma Thompson, Helen Fielding (the book’s author) and Borat screenwriter, Dan Mazer, have created characters who are mired in a pre-Millennial attitude to sex. Sex is to be snagged whenever and wherever it might be disseminated, and as such, it is referred to as ‘bonking’. Why has a storyline been constructed, where characters are still desperately trying to prove that casual sex is okay, when this sort of attitude is becoming passe? Millennials have made it clear that they have nothing to prove when it comes to sex, and they do not obsess about it like almost everyone in the film seems to do. I also object to the aberrant idea that foul language delivered in a cut-glass accent makes the frequent use of the ‘F’ bomb okay. And to have a child let rip with the F-word is not funny – it is a sad indictment of poor parenting, and a reminder that little pitchers have big ears.
Furthermore, while I can accept that klutzy Bridget Jones may have hidden skills which led to her appointment as a TV producer, I can’t accept that she would be so clueless that she has no idea who Ed Sheeran is. Finally, pitting down-to-earth millionaire Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) against intellectual legal crusader Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), and then asking Bridget to choose between them, does not have the same panache as having bad boy Daniel Cleaver vie for Bridget’s heart with brooding and pensive Mr Darcy. Both men in ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’ are great catches and both men are interested in being the one that she chooses. The frisson of danger that lurked in previous movies was that Bridget’s ability to see the ‘man of substance’ might be obscured, and she would end up choosing the cad over the gentleman.
Despite the previously stated gripes ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’, directed by Sharon Maguire, is a lovely, light, lilting film that balances poignancy with humour, verbal comedy with physical comedy and coyly packages all this with a message that self-acceptance is the key to a happy life. Reliance on being affirmed at work, or finding ‘the one’ whose chemistry sparks with yours, is not the route to feeling fulfilled, is the clear message here. Ultimately, Zellweger manages to deliver a masterful performance: warm, funny, but slightly melancholy as well, and it is this alchemy of being with a well-loved friend that will seduce viewers into recommending this film to their friends.