Over 200 years later and we still love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so much that we get at least one new version of it every other year. I’m not really complaining because Pride and Prejudice is one of the most romantic stories ever written with a female protagonist who is considerably strong-willed and assertive for her time.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is a modernized take on Pride and Prejudice, introducing an imperfect heroine in Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones. While only taking the core romantic plot from Austen’s novel, Bridget and Elizabeth seem to not be obviously comparable. Both are head-strong and beat to the march of their own drum, but these are two women shaped by different times that demand different things. Elizabeth must be wed to be financially supported since she and her sisters cannot inherit their father’s estate. Bridget, realizing she’s getting older, wants to make her mark on the world, lose weight and find a man.
Bridget is lovable, but she is a bit ridiculous and that’s part of her charm. She’s definitely not like other women. She gets herself in the craziest situations – part of the film’s fun is watching it with secondhand embarrassment for the character. Yet, through it all, she’s resiliently herself, even when she fucks up and says the wrong thing, or lets her bad habits get the best of her. And just like the uptight and judgemental Mark Darcy, we love her just the way she is.
Watching Pride and Prejudice now, it’s easy to assume that Elizabeth was the most sensible one of the bunch. Back then though, she was a “Bridget Jones” with her nose always in a book or the hem of dress caked in mud – the opposite of propriety demanded by Mr. Darcy’s posh society. In modern terms, Bridget in all her weirdness and awkward moments, is the same. It’s quite a revelation to realize that the two character are in fact very comparable.
Directed by Sharon Maguire, the cast brings these characters to life. It’s Renee Zellweger’s most iconic role and with good reason. She plays Bridget with nuance and the right comic timing. The performance isn’t restrained, but she doesn’t overact in any of the outrageous scenes, still showcasing a lot of energy and spunk. Colin Firth once again tackles the Darcy character, which he is also widely known for playing in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. A far reach from his character in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, Hugh Grant is fantastic as the womanizing Daniel Cleaver, Bridget’s boss and lover. His entrance in the movie is perfectly memorable, telling you so much about his character in a matter of seconds. Grant brings in the swagger and unapologetically plays the cheating cad.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is a bit of an epic, breaking down various parts of the character’s life and watching her on a journey to reinvent herself and better her life. What makes it so entertaining to watch is the array of personalities and situations that make up Bridget’s life. It’s not just about laughing or feeling sorry for Bridget, it’s about relating to her and feeling like she does when a loved one disappoints you or when a mishap leads to a success. Life is full of crazy ups and downs, and Bridget Jones’s Diary chronicles it with a perfect mix of humor and drama.