Let me preface anything that I am about to say with a simple, unfiltered fact: I love Bridget Jones. Not just the film “franchise” for its cheeky charm, but Jones as a character — a woman who stumbles a fair bit through life, sometimes apprehensive but never fully afraid to make a mess of things. A woman who ultimately finds an end-of-the-tunnel light or a silver lining, or enough moxie to give those who’ve given her grief a piece of her mind. My admiration and affection for Jones is not hyperbolic and definitely not in any way ironic; she’s one of my favorite female characters ever written. So it’s little (if any) surprise at all that the news of a decade later follow-up film got me giddy and fuzzy inside. Bridget’s back, cue the champagne and streamers!
The Sharon Maguire-directed film picks up where we last left Bridget twelve years ago: at the edge of reason. While the first sequel in the Jones universe felt markedly “out there” in comparison, Bridget Jones’s Baby feels comfortable. She’s stepping back from the wackiness — and believe you me, it was pretty wild — seen in that 2004 film and settling back into reality. Her kind of klutzy reality, but reality all the same. The film in general is familiar in all the right ways, but with a few fresh twists. Bridget’s back home in Borough, where she’s landed a job as a television producer. She’s still a bit bumbly when thrown in the romance ring, but she’s finding her footing with slightly more ease. The film follows Bridget in a new (and arguably pretty terrifying in theory) era: her 40s. It’s not just her candle-clad birthday cake that has her in a slight tizzy, it’s the triangular love-and-sex-capade she’s found herself in after returning to being single.
In one corner, there’s former flame and Bridget’s true love Mark Darcy (the ever-swoonworthy Colin Firth) who’s sourly single and in the midst of a divorce from another woman. In the other corner, is all-American Jack Quant (McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey), a sweet salt-and-pepper guy who made billions founding an online dating website. Jack picks Bridget out of her rut (literally, he pulls her from a pit of mud at an outdoor music festival) and so begins their romance. Things go swimmingly as things can in Bridget’s world, until she realizes she’s pregnant — and there’s no telling if the little one will be calling Jack or Mark “Dad.”
The film winds down a stockish set of scenarios, marked with the quintessential moments you’d anticipate in a film of this romantic comedy variety. There’s the shock and awe that comes from Bridget’s parents after she drops the big news, the tug-of-war of her heart between Mark and Jack, and the awkward but still comical visits to the gynecologist (Emma Thompson). Though it’s routine, it’s still rewarding, mostly due to the lovable nature brought forth by the main ensemble.
We spend most of the film in the dark about who the father really is, but it’s not all that bad. I, and likely many others in the audience, surmised an outcome for the film with each passing scene: Bridget and Mark would fall back into love, as they are so fated for one another, but Jack would be the father of her child. A “baby daddy” and a husband in two separate men is admittedly on-the-nose for Bridget’s life narrative and would present challenges for everyone involved. Challenges that catapult the characters toward change and maturity. Mark would have to melt his sometimes steely exterior and try to be less green with envy; Jack would have to understand his idea of what his child’s family would look like is going to be different than envisioned. While Bridget would have to maintain her cool about it all. I was on-board for this. I was excited for this.
Let’s discuss the actual ending, the only part of the film with which I could truly find fault.
Spilling my sparkly feelings on how charming the film was, how cozy its atmosphere was, how it conjured the same types of thoughts and emotional responses I experienced watching 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary is easy. I could rant and rave about Bridget’s development and the ways in which it actively works against traditional societal pressures (particularly twelve whole years after the last Bridget installment, and six since Zellweger has been on screen) without compromising her character, her plot lines or Zellweger as an actress. Bridget Jones’s Baby treated the titular treasure with grace and with heart — just as the audience and the actors alike would have expected.
Unfortunately, Mark Darcy wasn’t afforded the same opportunity for growth Bridget was. That’s the most disappointing aspect of the third installment. We see great, positive and believable growth for a character we love so dearly, and we hope the same for her counterpart with whom we’ve had a deep connection for 15 years. Rather we’re taken through the film’s run expecting a certain ending, one that would grant us that hope, that doesn’t ever reach fruition. Instead, we learn that Mark is both the bio-dad and Bridget’s beau. He’s left with no conflicts to overcome, no harsh truths to face. All anxieties presented by the possibility of Jack being the father of the child Mark would raise, melt away during the final scene’s paternity revelation. All the conflicts he worked to overcome throughout the film’s run, particularly his communication issues, fizzle flat. It was disappointing and disheartening.
Overall, despite its less-than-optimal ending, Bridget Jones’s Baby booms with tons of little Bridget-isms, on-brand British humor and a big, beating heart.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is currently playing in US and UK theatres, with rolling international releases until October 5.