Silly me. For years, I've avoided 'Bridget Jones's Diary' for three reasons: its top billed cast. I'm not one of those guys who is excessively opposed to watching films with Renee Zellweger, but I will say I prefer her in a supporting role rather than a lead, historically. She's not as unattractive as some give her "credit" for, and her voice doesn't grate me like it apparently does others, but a little of her goes a long way, and too much can just be annoying. Hugh Grant? I tire of seeing the same damn character over and over (the pompous dick type), and Colin Firth, bless him and his newfound Oscar gold, but he's always seemed a bit of a wanker to me. Those ingredients, combined, just didn't seem like a concoction I'd find appealing in any manner. If anything, I prepared for a torturous rom-com ride.
Never judge a book by its cover, folks. Just don't do it...unless it's the latest blatantly racist "Buddies" puppy mill flick, feel free to bash those damned titles to hell and back.
Adapted from the best selling Helen Fielding novel of the same name, 'Bridget Jones's Diary' may very well be one of the least pandering, most realistic romantic comedies made in the last decade. It has actual three dimensional characters, love interests for the lead character who aren't perfect gentlemen, who are both shown in both positive and negative lights. It has side characters that make the film feel lived in, with the Jones character getting her time at the center of her own little universe, her follies and misadventures and failures in love not forced into being her only existence or outlet. Real characters, whose problems aren't always romantic in the end. Take note, Sparks. Take note.
With the unlucky at love, single and on her own Jones (Zellweger) coming to realize she may become an old maid of sorts, she forces change in herself, with a diary keeping track of her daily habits and thoughts as motivation to move forward in life and love, the two ideas seemingly married to each other. With the improving self-image comes two potential suitors: her boss (Grant), a less than sly Lothario who is less mister right than he is mister right now, and a man her parents attempted to set her up with (Firth), who hardly seems her type, and their cat fighting only proves as much. Through her 32nd and 33rd years, Jones will navigate the murky waters that she only seems to make muddier with her failed attempts to land the man of her dreams.
I know, reading that makes 'Bridget Jones's Diary' sound about as cliche as they get. Honestly, writing it made me guilty that I'm still giving a positive review. The film is much more than its tried and true generic themes. Sure, the acting is about as phoned in as a take out order (though Zellweger's British isn't all that bad in the midst of a heavily English cast). Yeah, the dialogue can seem a bit overly self-aware and a smidge ridiculous, and there is no doubt in my mind the manner in which Firth's character changes is about as forced and unexplained as it gets. This is hardly the perfect film.
But it's a perfectly entertaining little show, to be sure. Bridget Jones is a fantastic character. She's not the sexiest woman in the room. She's far from the smartest, and her social skills leave much to be desired. She's not a pig, by any means, but she does live a hard lifestyle and makes typically regrettable, embarrassing decisions at every turn. She's not a perfect, glamorized diva. She's more like a regular person, single or attached, than damn near any female lead in a rom-com, and that makes her infinitely likable, relatable, human, and most importantly, interesting.
The film may be full of genre staples and cliches, and can sometimes seem like a paint-by-numbers cinematic experience, but the random odd shot, like the multiple overhead moments, bring something different to the table, just slightly enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. The realistic relationships and their inevitable ups and downs are less painful to watch than one would think considering all the pain and misery that is the undercurrent of the film. Even the Gemma Jones/Jim Broadbent mother and father dynamic has its cruel sense of reality to it. But in the end, the right message is sent. This may not be the film Firth would want to have mentioned after his name on the back of a DVD or Blu-ray (and with 'The King's Speech,' that will never be a problem again), but really, aside from where his career has gone since, there's no embarrassment in being involved with or enjoying this film. It's cute, funny, and very tolerable when viewed alone or as a date night flick.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Bridget Jones's Diary' is among the earliest Miramax titles put on Blu-ray by Lionsgate, with a Region A marked BD25 disc housed in a standard cut-out eco-case. There is the usual smattering of pre-menu content that has to be skipped one at a time, and a traditional Lionsgate menu system.
'Bridget Jones's Diary' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode at 2.35:1. With the 'Scream Trilogy' being the only other Lionsgate-slash-Miramax new-to-Blu titles available, I didn't set my expectations all that high. It doesn't seem much love was given to this release, at all. In fact, I wonder why there's quite a bit of extras and a film with high def audio on a BD25 disc. All the warning signs are in place, folks, and the end result is a less-than-impressive viewing experience that could have been worse, but also could, and should, have been a bit better.
While I did enjoy the textures for the majority of the film, and the mostly sharp facial features and finer distinctions in clothing and hair, this Blu-ray has its moments where the picture goes all to hell with softness, with colors randomly fading or growing glaringly bold for those off bits. Grain spikes, but not uncontrollably, but skin tones often fluctuate, with a 60-25-15 split between natural, excessively hot, and ridiculously pale complexions. Black levels are uncontrollable, and often times distracting. Amazingly, the slow motion segments of the film look worse than anything else, and that is a phenomenon I'd never witnessed before this disc. Edges are mostly natural with a few excessively sharp bits here and there. Dirt is kept at a bare minimum with only a tiny blip here and there, but some noise pops remind one that praise should be faint here.
Much like the characters of the film, this Blu-ray disc is all over the place, somewhat bipolar, and quite possibly into sadism and/or masochism.
'Bridget Jones' on Blu-ray sounds...not good. Lionsgate issues this Miramax title a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that...well, maybe the only truthful part about that label is the DTS part. HD? Master Audio? 5.1? What a hoot!
The film is a very front heavy affair, with no real localization to speak of. Crowded rooms or events? Where? If I closed my eyes at any time I would have no idea any scene had more than two people in it. Even the soundtrack barely registers worth a damn in the rears, a soundtrack that features here one minute, gone the next bass. Prioritization is never an issue as there are hardly any scenes with more than one audio element at all, let alone those dueling for supremacy. Dynamics can be questionable, too.
I really didn't notice anything here worthy of any praise. It's not end of the world awful, not by any means, but this is spotty as can be, regardless of age or genre. I'd expect this from the other studios pumping out Miramax titles, but not the one that got all the big guns!
While I'll admit the film is pretty darn good, the supplement package, while it isn't small, it's really quite full to the brim with awfulness.
'Bridget Jones's Diary' doesn't revolutionize its genre, but it is a very enjoyable romantic comedy that doesn't alienate entire groups of people with a narrow focus. Instead, it's actually very easy to get into the characters...most of them, at least. This is Zellweger's signature role. This is a case of perfect casting. This Miramax drop from Lionsgate has average video, annoying audio, and a pile of extras that won't appeal to the guys. This one is worth a look, but I don't know how aged or worn out it is to its target audience, and I don't know how much replay value there is to be found.