‘I’ ON CULTURE
Sometimes a sequel can be a good thing, as demonstrated by Bridget Jones’s Baby. The original film focused on a young British girl searching for love and just about always being disappointed. Then there was a sequel in which she found love with the man of her dreams. In this second sequel, time has gone by, and it turns out that love was not perfect.
Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is now 43, single and content. She lives in her old apartment but now is doing well on the job, and being alone no longer scares her. She produces material for a TV show that is more interested in sleaze than accuracy, something that is played for great humor.
The great love of her life, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), has left her for another woman, but she does not regard that as a tragedy. She has changed her life and is more complete. She no longer smokes, no longer is out of shape, no longer self-pitying. Even when she bumps into Darcy and the wife he left her for, she has no qualms.
Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), the man who always seemed to get in the way of her being with Darcy, has died… Grant is not in the film.
Then a friend invites her for a weekend away and the fun begins. Not knowing she is going to an outdoor music festival, she dresses wildly inappropriately for the event and — hey, this is a comedy — falls flat into the mud. She is rescued by a handsome, single, relationship guru Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), who is wealthy because of a dating app he created, and has what essentially is a one-night stand with him. Shortly afterward, Darcy comes back, having separated from his second wife, and she has another brief affair with her ex.
And, since this movie is about a baby, you may assume that Bridget becomes pregnant. Her problem is that there are two possible fathers. Both men vie for her affection, going further than any normal person ever would.
Since this is also a romantic comedy, we can easily follow all the problems of misunderstandings, love gone wrong, petty arguments that are clearly nonsensical, all done in the name of love. Commenting on all these things is her seen-it-all obstetrician, Dr. Rawlings (Emma Thompson, who is also lead writer for the film).
Zellweger seems to really understand Bridget now. They have grown into each other. The filmmakers allow her to be thin, really thin. There is no cover-up of the fact she is past 40. Unlike in the past views of her life, she is now a real person, and the film celebrates her independence. Bridget knows who she is and is content. And then, of course, to elicit the laughs, the script kicks her feet out from under her.
The cast, almost all of whom were in the early films, is good. Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as her parents provide not only humor but real support. Firth is a solid leading man. Dempsey, in essence taking over the role that Grant played, comes across as sincere and caring. Either leading man plays the part of someone who would be a good father and, presumably, husband. I liked Sarah Solemani in a small role as a friend, Miranda.
One of the best things about the film is that as a sequel, it turns the previous films totally around. That is the best way to handle these things. We did not need another movie about a woman who absolutely messes up her life in pursuit of a man who would take care of her. And the film works better by doing the opposite: it is the men who scramble. In our time of almost zero creativity where a good portion of films are either sequels or remakes of earlier good films, this serves as a good model.
It reminds me of how the best sequel this year, Captain America: Civil War, handed the issue. The first film was an anti-Nazi World War II drama, the second a 1970s Cold War flick, and the third, a real superhero grouping. We can only hope that we saw more of these changes in these new repeats.
In the meantime, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a nice, warm, funny film. It is not brilliant or even wildly funny, but it is a nice romantic comedy that is a welcome change from the violence in most of the movies out this time of year. Go with someone you love.