THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON"

Bridget Jones’ Diary came out over three years ago but the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason begins a mere six weeks after the events of the original. Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is happily dating Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). She is positively giddy over this relationship. In fact, she runs around reminding everyone that she has a boyfriend and that “he’s a human rights lawyer, you know.”

It’s doubtful that anything could ever be idyllic in Bridget’s world, though. Her job as a TV reporter still puts her in embarrassing situations, such as having to skydive and land in an excrement-filled pigpen. Then insecurity sets in. Mark’s comely coworker Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett) stars hanging around a lot. Bridget starts to wonder if Mark prefers the thin, leggy Rebecca to her own self-acknowledged “wobbly bits.” Her lack of trust bothers him, and she takes his reaction as an admission of guilt. Before she knows it, their relationship is over.

Enter Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), Bridget’s old bedroom nemesis. He invites her to be part of a television project he’s working on in Bangkok. Reluctantly, she agrees. Once there, he proceeds to put the moves on Bridget. Although she is somewhat tempted by his claims of being a new man (i.e. giving up his womanizing ways), she cannot erase thoughts of Mark from her mind. The thought of possibly getting back together with Mark won’t go away.

Helen Fielding’s original novel was a sweet story about a young woman who only wanted to lose weight, give up her bad habits, and find a nice boyfriend. It was a good book, but the movie was even better because Zellweger, Firth, and Grant so perfectly embodied the central roles. It was very much a case of perfect casting bringing out the best in the source material.

The second book, however, was a disaster in my eyes. Rather than staying true to the simple, relatable idea of Bridget’s search for happiness, it made a bunch of weird, unrelated detours that were wildly out of place in a romantic comedy. The most annoying of them was a subplot in which Bridget is thrown into a Thai prison after unwittingly smuggling drugs across the border. The movie shuttles most of those unwelcome detours, but regrettably keeps the Thai prison. This segment has never made sense to me in terms of Bridget’s world; it seems like an act of comic desperation. However, the film at least softens the edges, finding a way to tie it in to the emotions felt by Bridget and Mark.

What makes Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason better than the book is that it mostly focuses on the fact that happy endings are not necessarily simple. Being in a serious relationship means adjusting, particularly to the idea of happiness. Someone like Bridget certainly comes into a relationship with a lot of baggage. She has grown accustomed to expecting the worst. Being with Mark means facing her insecurities and accepting the fact that he actually embraces them. Most of the dumb stuff from the book has been stripped away in order to concentrate on the very human idea at the core.

Renee Zellweger owned this role in the original and she turns in another wonderful performance here. Although much of the humor comes from Bridget’s humiliation, Zellweger fills the character with charm and pluck. We genuinely care about Bridget because she’s so darn likable.

Colin Firth is also really outstanding. On this second go-round, I noticed how perfectly droll he is playing Mark Darcy. The character is somewhat of a stick-in-the-mud, afraid to let down his guard. That type of character could potentially be obnoxious for an audience to watch, but Firth makes the trait funny. As for Hugh Grant…well, he specializes in playing devilish characters and it’s no insult to say he does it well again here.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is not as good as the original – the Thai prison sequence makes certain of that – but it still works. The film finds humor and warmth in the idea of newfound love, and the cast is as divine as ever. If there’s ever a third installment in the series, I’d like to see Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy planning their wedding. The idea of them trying to organize so many details makes me laugh just thinking about it.

( out of four)


Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is rated R for language and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.

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