Sunday, May 31, 2009

BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY: Blu-ray (Miramax 1996) Alliance Home Video

Based on the 1996 novelized exploits by Helen Fielding of a chain-smoking, moderately alcoholic, slightly overweight and thoroughly unhappy British frump, director Sharon Macguire’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) is a riotous, often introspective, and, thoroughly perceptive glimpse into the world of sexual frustration.

Perhaps because much of her book was based on serialized articles written for newspaper, Fielding’s novel is a more episodic search for Mr. Right, touching base with thoughts on her own career, vices, family/friends and other natural disasters. She divides the world into ‘singletons’ (unmarried people) and smug marrieds (those who look down on singletons for all the wrong reasons) with special attention paid to ‘fuckwittage’ – a euphemism Fielding uses to explain all the emotional angst and confusion men inflict on the women in their lives.

Overall, the film is a far more satisfying journey of self realization and ultimately, self discovery. Starring Renee Zellweger as the awkward title character, Bridget Jones lives alone in a London flat; overeating, drinking too much and musing about the perfect man who seems to be nowhere in sight. Reluctantly attending her parent’s annual New Year’s Eve party, Bridget meets human rights attorney Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) whom she instantly takes a dislike to. He’s arrogant, boring and egotistical – at least, on the surface. Mark looks down on Bridget – or so she believes.

At work, Bridget has more success seducing her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) who wastes no time corrupting and indulging Bridget’s vices. For Bridget, Daniel’s aiding and abetting translates into true love, though in actuality he is merely passing his time with her until he can pursue another, more physically attractive woman on the side.

Bridget’s motley crew of perennially loyal friends include ardent – foul mouthed - feminist Shazzer (Sally Philips), no nonsense businesswoman, Jude (Shirley Henderson) and gay man about town, Tom (James Callis). Each advises more caution from Bridget in her relationship with Daniel. All are head over heals in love with Mark from the onset – particularly when he unexpectedly turns up to comfort Bridget after she has learned that Daniel has been cheating on her for some time. Arriving at Bridget’s flat to apologize (well…not really) Daniel is physically assaulted by Mark in an all out brawl at a Greek restaurant just across the street.

In essence, Shazzer, Jude and Tom are Bridget’s real family – their thoughts and emotions in sync with her own. By contrast, Bridget’s biological family is hampered by a rather domineering mother (Gemma Jones), emasculated father (Jim Broadbent) and perverted Uncle (James Faulkner), who enjoys copping a feel from Bridget whenever he can.

Ultimately, true love between Bridget and Mark triumphs over seemingly insurmountable adversity and odds, though hardly with Bridget’s help. In fact, throughout most of the film Bridget’s lack of tact and the good sense God gave a lemon causes her to say and do practically everything she can to sabotage her own happiness with Mark.

However, what makes the character of Bridget Jones so endearing to an audience as we watch her repeatedly foil her own good fortune is not so much what she does as how she naively does it. Here, Bridget as heroine is on par with some of Jane Austen’s greats, immeasurably fleshed out to sympathetic perfection by Renee Zellwegger’s unrelenting empathetic performance. In her idiocy and fumbling, Zellwegger brings a genuine note of lost innocence to the part that never sacrifices our ability to relate to her inner unhappiness or discover it mere patina as jaded miscalculation and obvious folly.

Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are two sides to the coin of masculinity; the first disreputably unsavory, the latter hopelessly chivalrous; each vying for Bridget Jones’s great misguided love and affection. The Helen Fielding/Andrew Davies/Richard Curtis screenplay keeps the action of all three central characters moving swiftly, with plenty of compelling support from the rest of the cast.

In the final analysis, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a feel good romantic romp that often takes the most unconventional paths to reach its inevitable conclusion. As a result, it emerges a winner time and again – unique and pleasing and – like a car crash one is privy to but not a part of – oh, so unbelievably compelling to watch.

Alliance Home Video’s Blu-ray isn't much of an upgrade over their previously issued DVD. Colors are not nearly as rich, bold or vibrant as they ought to be, leading me to think this is just another tired old 720p transfer bumped up to a 1080p signal. Boo-hoo! I hope consumers get wise to this sort of manipulation and stop buying substandard product advertised as 'new and improved'. 

Predictably, contrast levels are tighter and everything sharpens up - marginally. The audio is 5.1 DTS. As this is primarily a dialogue driven movie, the only real sonic kick to your speakers derives from the film’s pop tune inspired infusion of songs.

Extras include brief featurettes on the making of the film, retrospective ‘look back’ at its success and other nuggets of press and promotional stuff – some vintage, some new. Director Maguire provides an audio commentary that isn’t as informative as one would hope. There are also more than 100 individual columns to read by author Helen Fielding and some very funny deleted scenes to wade through. Highly recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)


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