Saturday, July 14, 2018
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Review: Dear diary, watched 'Bridget Jones's Baby,' laughed much (w/video)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Bridget Jones fans are loyal. And it is probably true that some felt anxiety going into Bridget Jones's Baby, the third big screen turn for our beloved Bridge.

We are protective of her, like an old friend. A third movie brought a feeling of cash-cow desperation, a fear that Bridget would not be cared for in the way we need her to be.

I say we. In college, before I had cable, my world was a 12-inch TV/VCR combo and a dusty copy of Bridget Jones's Diary purchased from Blockbuster. I played it on repeat day and night, between reading the books. In those lonely apartment-dwelling days, something felt so comforting in Helen Fielding's character.

She is, of course, based on Jane Austen's muddy, stumbling Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She says the wrong thing, dates the wrong people. She feigns confidence and second guesses herself. She drinks. She swears, but not in a cool way.

Somewhere between the id, ego and superego, there's Bridget Jones, bouncing around with a cigarette, telling the truth.

Bridget Jones's Baby has little to do with Fielding's third book, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. In the book — and this is no spoiler, but rather, the entire premise — Fielding killed off the long-suffering romantic lead, Mark Darcy. It's hard to imagine movie audiences would go for that, but time will tell.

Sharon Maguire, director of the first movie, returns to helm a story that happens in the interim. Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is 43 and single after being on and off with Mark for a decade. She is excelling at her job in television. She has kept her old friends and made new. She has finally reached goal weight.

She is a bit more even-keeled. She keeps her diary on a tablet now. She has what she thought she wanted, and she is still not totally happy. It's something for fans who have grown with her to chew on.

Past that, the story gets patently absurd. It opens with a funeral for bad boy flame Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), so that question is neatly answered.

Bridget goes on holiday with her co-worker (Sarah Solemani) to a hipster music festival, where they meet Ed Sheeran but have no idea who he is. Bridget meets wealthy Jack Qwant, played by Patrick Dempsey, who has founded an algorithm-based dating app. They end up in a yurt for sexytime. A week later, she hooks up with Mark in an electric scene at a christening.

Pregnant, she lays it on the men in glorious Bridget speak:

"I suppose, owing to these relations, the resulting life form currently residing in my tummy could, in fact, be either of yours."

The "who's the father" plot is tired and tends to feel forced. The circumstances in which she bumps into the men over and over again are implausible. There's a funny, healthy element of slapstick at play, as with all Bridget movies. A doctor played dryly by Emma Thompson is a biting, welcome addition.

But under it all, at least for this fan, there was that familiar college apartment warmth of the first movie. Bridget's story is carried by the question "can being wrong all the time actually be right?" Can you match up with someone on paper but really be better with the taciturn dude in the corner with whom you have unexplained chemistry?

And can Bridget, and vis-a-vis, her fans, every truly be happy?

The answers don't matter so much as the process, nor did we have to be so anxious. Your friends change, but the truest are still your friends. And that's the truth.

Contact Stephanie Hayes at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

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