Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Why Bridget Jones is Dead to Me

Why Bridget Jones is Dead to Me

*Why Bridget Jones Can go Fuck Herself*

Let me start by saying I am not a Bridget Jones snob (I’m talking about the films here). I don’t have a problem with a well made rom-com. In fact, I bloody love them. I was surprised by how many of my friends had no interest in going to see the latest film when it came out. I don’t remember people being so stuck up about the first one – maybe they were and I just didn’t notice or maybe we were just all younger and not so discerning in our film choices (Muppets Treasure Island anyone?). I thought the first films were pretty alright – good for a mild laugh and good to watch someone on screen who seemed as much as a fuck up as we all felt. And so, when the latest instalment, Bridget Jones’s Baby (spoiler alert) was released, I was looking forward to seeing it. Partly for the sake of nostalgia, partly to meet up with an old friend again (to be clear, I mean Bridget).

            I left the cinema feeling thoroughly, punched-in-the-gut depressed, like everything I believed had been blown up, like the oh-so-comfy slightly kooky colourful rug I loved had been pulled from under me in one fell cinema swoop. It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts together and to work out exactly what it is about the whole sorry affair that has pushed my buttons so. I’m still not clear, but here are some thoughts…
First off, lets address the big, botoxed elephant in the room – Renee Can-you-tell-who-I-am-yet Zellweger. She wasn’t the most popular choice to begin with – and rightly so I think. I know, I know, the whole point of being an actor or a writer is that you can re-imagine yourself and put yourself, convincingly, in other people’s shoes. I get that – but come on now, within reason please! I was pleasantly surprised by her in the first films. I semi-admired that she put on weight for the role, while at the same time despising that it was such a hardship for her to come off whatever the latest kale and urine type Hollywood diet she was on to do so. Anyway, she did it, and we related to her – what 30 something woman hasn’t had weight woes, after all (and if you haven’t then you should probably stop reading – this isn’t the article for you – lucky bitch). She smoked, she drank too much, she lived alone, she had solid, slightly weird friends, she was trying to forge some kind of a career and she repeatedly made a twat out of herself. It was relatable and it was funny, if a little cheddar-laden.

            Fast forward 12 years and Bridget is a completely different beast. She’s now reached her ‘ideal’ weight of a size 8 – YES, OF COURSE SHE FUCKING HAS, because it’s quite common for women to squeeze into a size 8 in their 40s as their metabolism is completely giving up on them, THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS. It’s not even the unrealistic slant of this, it’s the way that it’s just randomly dropped into the start of the film that that’s what’s happened and then never referred to again. I imagine it’s because this time around Zellweger couldn’t be arsed to go through the harsh regime of eating bacon sandwiches and other such food of the Devil to make herself look ‘normal’ – maybe because she realises, as a 40 something woman, how much harder it is to get the weight off again (see earlier point re: metabolism). So, there’s that, which is irksome, but more than that is the face. I mean, I know she’s had a hard time in the press over it but rightly so, I say. She is almost unrecognisable. This might wash with an American audience (and let’s face it, that’s who these films have been made for ultimately), where cosmetic surgery is common place and they’re used to people morphing into other-wordly, scraped back versions of their former selves that are unable to form an expression. But it doesn’t work here. And that’s the point – Bridget is British. In the original columns of her conception, her very essence is British, she is the embodiment of very British womanisms – drinking too much, smoking too much, worrying about weight, generally being a bit of a twat. Without wishing to sound like a member of the BNP, Bridget is British and should’ve been played by someone British who understands her. I spent the whole movie watching this strange-faced, elasticated, skinny version of someone who I knew would be running back to her trailer to recover by inhaling some imported oxygen or eating a baby’s foreskin. The whole point of the cinema is to suspend your disbelief and I simply couldn’t do that with her in this film.

            So she’s my main problem, but there are others – for example, we see far less of the friends in this film. Maybe that’s a reflection of life in your 40s compared to your 30s, maybe a lot of stuff was cut – either way, they were an essential part of Bridget’s story and now they’re just an aside and the film is less funny for it.
The swoon-worthy American – OF COURSE there’s a swoon-worthy American. Really? REALLY? In all my time in London, I have never met an American who looks even remotely like Patrick Dempsey and if I did, I would bloody well end up with him instead of an uptight lawyer (except I wouldn’t because he would have some stunning, American 20 something, tight-arsed, perky-breasted wife on his arm). I know, if films were completely realistic they’d be bloody boring – but really?
And, of course, the ending. I got the same sense of being let down that I did from Sex and the City (I was never team Big – why would you be – he was an arrogant, misogynistic, old wanker).

            So basically, taking all that into consideration, I feel like the problem is that Bridget has been utterly Americanised and it has taken all of her appeal away. If I wanted to see a saccharine, unbelievable rom-com filled with demi-god males and plastic females I’d stick with the back catalogue thanks – Maid in Manhattan, The Bounty-Hunter, Wanderlust, Made of Honour, Failure to Launch…The list goes on. And on. And on.
Bridget was always something a bit different. And now she’s not. You can’t really blame Zellweger – she doesn’t know any better – but Helen Fielding, Sharon Maguire and Emma Thompson – Emma bloody Thompson – you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

            I have a single friend who, when I asked if she wanted to go and see the film with me, replied ‘I don’t really want to see a Richard Curtis version of singledom in 40s’. I tried to tempt her with wine, on me – ‘it would still make me hurl’ was her response. In hindsight, I think she made the right choice.