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Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason

Director: Beeban Kidron
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Jacinda Barrett, Sally Phillips, James Callis, Shirley Henderson

(Universal; US theatrical: 12 Nov 2004; 2004)

Misunderstanding

Bridget (Renée Zellweger) returns, much the same as when you last saw her. She’s still self-consciously chubby, still humiliated working at the tv news station, and still wondering if maybe she’s made the wrong choice in hardworking human rights attorney Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). This even though you know she went through considerable consternation making this choice and then convincing him to make the same one back. You know this because if you’re watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, chances are excellent that you’ve seen Bridget Jones’ Diary, read Helen Fielding’s novels, or both.


But, even if you haven’t tuned in to Bridget’s travails before, you won’t be hard-pressed to figure out how this tale will go. Worse, the sequel takes a circuitous and tactless route to its inevitable end. While Bridget fans are notoriously legion (o r were, when the first film was released and they were the subject of numerous feature stories on the phenomenon), this time the bloom is quite off.


Edge of Reason opens on the diary page, wherein B complains of yet another curry turkey buffet at mum’s (Gemma Jones), for yet another seasonal gathering. This time, however, B is joined by her sweetheart, who kindly endures the same tedious conversations and terrible snowman sweaters that she has come to tolerate, however grumpily, over so many years. And so, she suggests in her first pages of her second diary, she has at last found true happiness and a good man to boot.


Not so fast. What kind of a singletons movie would this be if Bridget weren’t fretting over precisely this status? And who would come see it if she wasn’t ratcheting up her desire to take that crucial step out of singletondom, namely, to be married?


And so Bridget endeavors to find her way to this next step, even as she must also sabotage herself in order to adhere to the Bridget Jones formula. For starters, she continues to hang out with her old singleton friends (who complain she spends too much time with Mark Darcy, now that she’s less strictly singleton than they are), and consider seriously their tricks for sustaining a man’s interest or arousing his jealousy. At the same time, she treats Mark Darcy as if he’s her pet, this being her way of expressing her happiness with him and in particular with the fantastic sex they apparently have every night. As she is an impulsive girl, without giving much thought to consequences, she calls him at work to congratulate him on his pretty bum. And because he’s a stodgy sort who can’t imagine his impulsive girlfriend would do such a thing, he has her on speaker phone, and so feels embarrassed before a group of mucky mucks in suits (this all revealed in a most unoriginal series of shots—Bridget’s reddening face, Mark Darcy’s dour face, and the array of nonplussed faces in his boardroom meeting).


Bums come up again, in Bridget’s ongoing dissatisfaction at work (where she continues to mention that she has a boyfriend who’s a human rights lawyer at whenever she can, much to the eye-rolling displeasure of her officemates). As her assignments tend to be at once rambunctious and hackneyed, she is sent forth to skydive though she has no idea how, and the clever cameraperson catches a wide shot of her bum coming downwards to the lens: her bosses love the shot and especially her outrage over it, and show it repeatedly.


This, combined with a blow-out with Mark Darcy over what she perceives as his continued stuffiness, as well as her idea that he’s too chummy with his beautiful, thin, smart coworker Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett), leads B to take a chance at a new gig (for the same company, which means more mortification), as a travel reporter partnered with her old flame, boss, and nemesis Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). And his re-entrance into the picture confirms that still more bums (of a sort) will be in play, as Mark Darcy goes on, quite inexplicably, adoring her, if only to ensure that he and Cleaver can engage in precisely the same sort of clumsy, plunging-out-the-door, public fisticuffs as they did in the first film, this time in a fountain as opposed to snow.


Bridget and Cleaver’s first joint assignment takes them to Thailand, where she begins to think, again, that maybe he is a worthy partner, as he’s all over her with love-chat and inviting her to his room. That this he is not worthy will surprise no one except poor B, but their near-tryst is really only the film’s way of getting B to Thailand, so that she can be arrested. This because she conveniently doesn’t remember that it’s a bad idea to agree to carry fertility statuettes for men just met while traveling (apparently she’s missed every movie and news story on the topic for the past thirty years).


This misunderstanding leads to the film’s most egregious “what were they thinking?” sequence, as B is tossed into a Midnight Express-ish prison cell, surrounded by filth and wetness and impoverished Asian cellmates doomed to live there forever. In keeping with her perpetual self-involvement, B teaches her new friends to perform “Like a Virgin” properly, with Madonna-like gear and moves. In turn, they teach her that relationships with men can go really, really badly, when they share their stories of prostitution, physical abuse, and drug addiction. Suddenly, B sees that her idea of a failed romance is hardly worth mentioning, and so she’s soon ready to forgive Mark Darcy’s stiffness. How nice for her.

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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