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Clarence Beaks Makes An Entry In BRIDGET JONES' DIARY!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

I haven't read this book, but I know people who swear by it. The lovely Marla Singer, for one. She's a freak for all British literature, and she's been hounding me for months for details on this adaptation of one of the biggest selling books of the last few years. She'll be thrilled by this very good review from what sounds like one of the first screenings of the film. Take a look!!

Earlier this year, across the pond in England, an uproar arose over the casting of a Yank, Renee Zellweger, as Bridget Jones; the much-beloved titular character of two best selling, and veddy British, novels. Once again, it appeared, not only was Hollywood plotting to do a great disservice to another fine piece of literature, they were also setting out to Americanize that which is so quintessentially British. Even when successful with such a gambit (HIGH FIDELITY springs immediately to mind,) why can't our brethren in Blighty, having suffered through the indignity of Mel Gibson kicking their ruthlessly, colonial-minded bums every other year, be extended the courtesy of not having to endure the sullying a national treasure?

Allow me to reassure Prime Minister Tony Blair that this is one film that won't require the condemnation of the British Parliament. Under the direction of first-time helmer Sharon Maguire, and adapted by Richard Curtis of NOTTING HILL and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL fame, BRIDGET JONES' DIARY is a throwback to the freewheeling '60's work of Richard Lester; rapidly-paced, gentle in tone, but with an acerbic wit lurking underneath. What's more, having seen our chain-smoking, weight-battling heroine essayed so confidently by Ms. Zellweger, I'm absolutely clueless as to who else could nail the role so triumphantly.

We're first introduced to Bridget as she reluctantly attends a party thrown at her parents' house. Her apprehension, it turns out, stems less from the prospect of spending time with her unconditionally adoring father (Jim Broadbent,) than to navigating the matchmaker tendencies of her overbearing mother (Gemma Jones,) who can't fathom why her over-thirty daughter is still single. It turns out Mrs. Jones is keen to re-introduce Bridget to Mark Darcy, a childhood acquaintance who is now a distinguished barrister. All goes disastrously, of course, sending poor Bridget home to drink herself into a stupor while emoting to depressing pop ballads (reaching a hysterical peak as Zellweger belts out "All By Myself" to her telephone from which, we ascertain, no suitors have called for some time.)

Determined not to wallow in her misery, however, a voracious Bridget goes on the prowl, donning sheer blouses complimented by skirts so short as to bring into doubt their very existence; all in a rather desperate attempt to draw the wandering eye of her ladykiller boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant,) who runs the publishing house at which Bridget toils thanklessly as a publicist. It isn't long before Daniel and Bridget begin shacking up regularly, briefly setting her world aright for before her mother drops the bombshell that she's engaging in an affair with the flamboyant host of a popular Home-Shopping program, sending Bridget's father spiraling into a pit of depression. It's also at this point that the aforementioned Mark Darcy professes his genuine affection for Bridget, a doubly-troubling dilemma since he is also a longtime rival of Daniel's. This is even further complicated by Mark's impending engagement to Natasha (Embeth Davidtz,) who, in her polished and proper manner, is the very antithesis of Bridget.

And on Bridget veers, from one calamity to another, seeking only a man who will love her just as she is -- socially awkward, slightly pudgy, but of a kind heart -- while keeping watch over her increasingly melancholy father, who, as he heartbreakingly confides, "just doesn't work" without her mother.

It's a wonder how Sharon Maguire, with whom I am entirely unfamiliar, moves so assuredly from one uproarious set-piece to another. So deft is her touch, I often forgot I was watching a work-in-progress, even when confronted with grainy digital footage. Comedies, in particular, are not supposed to work this well in test screenings.

Most importantly, Maguire has clearly connected with her leading lady, eliciting a performance from Zellweger that is surely a career best. It's rare to see a relatively glamorous Hollywood actress go to such lengths to look so amazingly plain. It's one thing for Cameron Diaz to frizz up her hair, and forego make-up, but quite another for Zellweger to pack on some pounds, and, then, wear outfits which serve only to exacerbate her less than stellar shape. How, then, is Bridget so desirable that two men would vie for her affection? It's all about charm, a quality which Zellweger exudes effortlessly, lighting up the screen at any given moment with an adorable scrunch of her face, or the longing gaze of her deep blue eyes. If NURSE BETTY was the film that proved this girl's got chops, consider BRIDGET JONES' DIARY the movie where Zellweger, by virtue of a performance that should draw the empathy of women worldwide, became our generation's Kelly or Hepburn.

With all of this praise (and not a word of it hyperbole) lavished on the star, I don't want to shortchange the work of the uniformly excellent cast that surrounds her. Playing the cad for the first time that I can remember, the thankfully stammer-free Hugh Grant is as assured as he's ever been. The first moment we meet Daniel, exiting an elevator, Grant does a quick surveying of the office landscape that perfectly sets the tone for his character's predatorial nature. It's the kind of subtle work for which the oft-maligned actor never receives enough credit. He's nicely contrasted by Colin Firth, who starts off as a chilly, emotionless intellectual, but slowly melts when in the presence of Zellweger (especially in an uproarious dinner party scene where Bridget's culinary ineptitude forces some quick improvisation on his part.) Fine work is also turned in by the ever-reliable Jim Broadbent (forever Warner Purcell from BULLETS OVER BROADWAY) and Gemma Jones.

I also want to single out the screenplay, which contains more than its share of quotable lines ("Careful, you ham-fisted cunt!" being a particular favorite.) Richard Curtis has been churning out these charming little scripts with astonishing regularity throughout the last decade, and even though he's aided by what I'm told is a very funny novel, I still stand in awe of his continued success.

With its scheduled release more than four months away, there is ample time to fine tune what would already be a cinch for my top-ten list of 2000. Is BRIDGET JONES' DIARY perfect? Heavens, no! There's far too much rushing about in the final reel, the temp soundtrack relies too heavily on over-familiar R&B hits to punctuate certain moments, and I'm not sure the ending is right, but, in a way, to paraphrase a recurring line from the film, I think I kind of love BRIDGET just the way it is.

Faithfully Submitted,

Clarence Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 16, 2000, 4:34 p.m. CST

    by EddieDane

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Why?

    by EddieDane

    Great, just what we need, a british Ally McBeal episode. Is it just me, or are these kind of movies and books just unbearable? Maybe it has something to do with my testosterone level, but these weightless, "clever" and oh-so-genteel works make me want to vomit. They're all as cloying as any Robin Williams movie and just about as funny; however they're socially relevant because they appeal to women? Huh? This movie is going to be as annoying as High Fidelity and I'm going to avoid it like the plague.

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 6:43 p.m. CST

    Dammit, Jim Carrey! Get away from her! She's mine!

    by Lenny Nero

    Ahhhh...Renee Zellweger...career best in One True Thing...still great in Price Above Rubies and Nurse Betty.

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Renee...

    by JustinTimberlake

    ...is forever spoiled for me, every time I see her I just hear Jim Carrey's voice from his character from ME MYSELF & Irene when he referred to her as "My little pussy fart". I hear that in my brain when i see her now. Heh Heh white people are funny, and da wu ain't nuttin ta fuck wit.

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 7:39 p.m. CST

    Jim dumped Rene

    by Guerilla_Films

    it was in the news last week. although I don't know why I'm even posting this. This little plot of Aryan matchmaking in the hopes of making another superrace that the media loves the promote just irritates me. But I guess I just wanted to let the fanboy know that his spankering can come (no pun intended) with a clean mind now knowing that she is free.

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 7:40 p.m. CST

    hey meth!

    by Guerilla_Films

    So odd that are posts were back to back? eh? and I don't want trouble so please don't bring the ruckus.

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 7:59 p.m. CST

    Sounds like Harvey Weinstein wrote that review

    by The guy

    Or maybe someone at Universal

  • Dec. 16, 2000, 8:20 p.m. CST

    Thanks For Playing, Pal,.....

    by mrbeaks

    ..... but I'm just plain ol' mrbeaks. Been hangin' around this site for some time, and have never cashed a paycheck from Miramax, or Universal (though I wouldn't turn my nose up at either. BTW, execs at these fine establishments may email me directly if you want to hear a terrific pitch about a Chester A. Arthur bio!) This is, in its very early stages, a great film, and I couldn't be happier to champion such quality work. Just wait until April, or whenever this ends up hitting theaters (I'd suggest delaying until May and using this as counter-programming to PEARL HARBOR.)

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 6:48 a.m. CST

    Nice review, beakers

    by Smilin'Jack Ruby

    But, goddammit, after seeing Jim Broadbent in "Little Voice" and "Topsy-Turvy," I have to disagree with your assessment of his career as being one-note :) Sounds like a great feature, though, and of course I'll see it (read the book in a single afternoon - it's rather "brisk" [and written on a 3rd grade level]). Being our generation's Hepburn is a long way from being chased through the woods in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation." Oh, yeah - I did snap a couple of photos of you in a parking garage in lower Manhattan accepting envelopes of cash from Harvey Weinstein, so you may have danced around the "I've never cashed a check from Miramax" thing, but as everyone who reviews advanced screenings for AICN knows, the Weinsteins pay in greenbacks. Later, beaks.

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Question

    by All Thumbs

    I've heard so many good things about the book that I've been meaning to pick it up now that I have extra time to read it, but I'm a bit apprehensive since this movie is coming out so soon. So I have a question for ya, beaks, and anyone else who has read the book and seen the movie: Do I read the book first or see the movie first?

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 12:40 p.m. CST

    "Empire Records" was Renee's first standout performance. People

    by Tender Branson

    However, "BJD" sounds like a really great movie, as I'm huge fan of popular British literature and found this book to be everything that Ally "Spastic Nerfbag" isn't. "BJD" is thoughtful, full of heart and wit and totally worth reading, even if you're a guy. However, Renee (How I love her.....) totally walked away with "Empire Records". (Not that it would've been really hard. That movie sucked bung like none other ever has, except for Renee. I really expected better for a follow up flick from the director of my #1 all time favorite teen angst flick, "Pump Up The Volume". Never before and never again was Christian Slater that relevant. Samantha Mathis' tits weren't too bad either. But, "Empire Records" was fucking heinous.) If need any kind of evidence at all, look at the folly of putting Liv Tyler's Big Emotional Blow-Out after Renee's. Liv came off as a spoiled rich bitch who was trying to emote something resembling a feeling from that animal cracker outback, Robofuckframe of her's. Renee came off as brutal, honest and exposed in a way that well...goddamn made you notice. I'll go see anything she plays in. (Although, let's hope her days of co-starring in horrible Jim Carrey flicks is over. She was the only good thing about "Me, Myself and Irene" too. And, yes that "Pussy fart" line sticks. God, that sentence sounded gross.) SO, good review and now I'm looking forward to this flick. HEY HARRY! Look at this review, use it as a frame of reference.

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 1:49 p.m. CST

    All Thumbs' Question...an answer

    by delsol

    Go ahead, read the book first. It will take all of two days at most to do. Besides, it will make you truly appreciate what they had to do to bring this to the screen. The book is a diary, all inner thoughts, and most of us wondered how it could be done without resorting to the "talk to the audience" technique of High Fidelity. It worked for High Fidelity, but this film would've been criticized for doing the same. Once a novelty, twice a ripoff. Another thing, by reading the book, you will get a better sense of the fortuitous casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. It is completely spelled out in the two books about Bridget's obsession with this actor's portray of Mr Darcy in the most recent television production of Pride and Prejudice. No one else could have done this role, and it sounds like he's fabulous.

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 2:49 p.m. CST

    Does anybody else find it ironic that this is an Americanization

    by Samthelion

    Like Grant, Broadbent, and Firth? Anyone? Maybe it's just me.

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 9 p.m. CST

    What Women Want: MORE COLIN FIRTH!!!

    by MPF

    Thanks, Beaks. Was wondering when somebody would finally weigh in on BJD. Sounds like they've nailed it! I've always felt Renee would make a perfect Bridget, and I can only hope that there's a decent amount of Colin as Mark Darcy in it! Besides being GORGEOUS, as every fan of the book knows he is Bridget's favorite actor, due to his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. Nice bit of an in-joke there. Really looking forward to this one.

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 9:33 p.m. CST

    harvey or some studio exec w/ an agenda...

    by Col. Mandrake

    could this read any better?!

  • Dec. 17, 2000, 9:41 p.m. CST

    'billy' is manipulative hoo-hah, renee is the bomb and hugh gran

    by tommy5tone

    i could elaborate if you like. OK, i will. 'billy elliot' has its share of clever, touching and likeable moments but a lot of it is misguided, blatantly manipulative and poorly directed crap. still, jamie bell (as billy) gives one of the most enjoyable and REAL performances by a young actor since christian bale in 'empire of the sun'. renee won my heart with 'maguire' and other organs with her barely-clothed appearance in 'empire records' (the rest of the movie, apart from brendan sexton III as a trash-talking shoplifter, blew dawg). hugh's stuttering fop persona is good for raking in the cash, but he's a good actor when the occasion calls for it (check out 'an awfully big adventure'). he should play a villain more often - i can see him pulling off tim roth's 'rob roy' role (cold-blooded aristocrat) with terrific flair). five-tone put the dogs out.

  • Dec. 18, 2000, 2:43 a.m. CST

    "Pump Up the Volume" still rules!

    by METHOS

    I agree, and it is amazing that Allan Moyle churned out the awful "Empire Records." I went to that movie because of "Pump Up the Volume." Many posters here, including myself, have worked in record stores that never ever resembled anything like "Empire Records." I call for a rerelease of "Pump Up the Volume!" Where in the hell is Samantha Mathis anyway? I'm still in love with her!

  • Dec. 18, 2000, 2:55 a.m. CST

    Billy Elliot

    by brigante

    Billy Eliot is one of the worst movies ever. It's Flashdance with ballet and it's even more crass. Its message 'There's no hope for people up north. Move to London where people are civilised and tolerant unlike those Northern biggots' is one of the most offensive things I have ever seen. It is a totally shallow and ignorant film. The most tragic thing is the critical praise that has been heaped on it, mostly by people who have never left Soho. By the way I was born in London and live in London.

  • Dec. 18, 2000, 8:52 a.m. CST

    Gimme another...

    by JackDaniels

    Yes, this dried livered lush hasn't heard, nor read or seen anything about BJD, but reading this review makes me think "Ally McBeal" to which I will be there in the front row with a bottle of my names's sake, waiting to see Rene's, now single, incredible legs in those miniskirts (whew). By the way, if any filmmakers are interested, I have a diary, too...

  • Dec. 18, 2000, 1:05 p.m. CST

    Sorry Tender Branson, Renee's FIRST great performance was in LOV

    by superhero

    Go check out that flick and then watch Nurse Betty RIGHT AFTER it to see just HOW great an actress she can be! She is TRULY underrated in my book and that's not just because she's a s cute as a button in a best friend that I'd love to make out passionately with kind-of-way!:O)

  • Dec. 19, 2000, 6:52 a.m. CST

    Bridget Jones

    by VillageIdjit

    Thanks much for screening preview. And also thanks for noting that Hugh Grant is more subtle an actor than he's been given credit for. (But if you don't remember him playing a cad, then you missed "Small Time Crooks," "An Awfully Big Adventure" and several other, lesser-known films). Can't wait for this one.

  • Jan. 6, 2001, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Ditto on Colin Firth!!

    by Frankie

    Whoever said we want more Colin Firth got it right!!!! He is going to bring his talent and wry self-deprecating humor to this! And old Hugh will disappear!

  • March 7, 2001, 4:50 p.m. CST

    Bridget Jones sequel?

    by yarachick

    I guess there can't be a sequel since Colin Firth is a big part of the second book yet he is playing Mark Darcy. Did Helen Fielding or other people working on the movie mention this?