If you were hoping for that classic scene with Bridget Jones in her pyjamas, dancing around her living room with a glass of wine then the third instalment in the Bridget Jones series will not disappoint. In fact, the very first scene transports Bridget fans back to the comedy comfort zone. The formula is tried and tested: this is classic Bridget Jones. It’s that combination of humour, sentimentality and cringe-worthy moments which fans of the franchise know, love and undoubtedly empathise with. To be perfectly honest, I spent more time cringing than laughing. In particular, a scene in which a live television interview goes wrong left me squirming so badly that I was glad to be watching in the dark. I don’t recall if I was too preoccupied with cringing to laugh or if the moment was simply too awkward to be funny. Then again, perhaps I’m overly sensitive. This sounds like a criticism, but it isn’t intended that way. It is part of Bridget’s charm and it’s an integral aspect of the character and the franchise. Personally, I would advise against seeing this film with new work colleagues, but rather that this is a film to be shared between old friends. And we welcome Bridget back as just that- an old friend.
It seems impossible to fault Renée Zellweger’s performance. She is instantly engaging. Her comic timing and her fantastic range of facial expressions make her a joy to watch. In particular, the onscreen relationship between Zellweger and Emma Thompson is fantastic. Thompson starts in the role of the quick-witted, sharp-tongued professional, but by the halfway point, is complicit in the Jones farce. This friendship is gradual, heart-warming and a highlight of the film.
Colin Firth, though, plays the stiff-upper-lip upper-middle-class Brit to the point that he is hard to connect to as a character. That isn’t to say that Firth’s revisit to the character of Mark Darcy is disappointing, but that perhaps he has lost some of the emotional connectivity which made him the previous films’ ‘safe-bet’. Of course, this hard exterior may well have been deliberate in order to create a contrast to the smooth-talking, tactile American- Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) – who represents the third point in the inevitable love triangle. Even so, it is as if the audience- along with Bridget- are attracted to Mr Darcy mostly because of a sense of nostalgia. It would not have been detrimental to the contrast between Darcy and Qwant if Firth had been allowed to portray more of an emotional range.
Overall, the film is brilliantly quotable. It’s full of fantastic moments and cameos and makes for (mostly) easy watching. Perhaps there is more cringe than comedy, but we have come to expect nothing less from Bridget. Since the recurring theme here seems to be familiarity, perhaps, just this once, it would be alright to end this review with a cliché: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And the Bridget Jones franchise is far from broke.
Jackson Lawrence, @JacksonReviews