Bridget Jones's Diary: Book vs Film
*** Spoilers ahead ***
I'll admit that I didn't actually read the third book. I did try, honest. But the fact that Mark was revealed dead within the first chapter - killed, off page, in a bomb blast in Afghanistan - was too much. Well, too much when added to the fact that Bridget was suddenly a fifty-something with two kids - one of whom was called Mabel - and a toyboy called Roxster. I just couldn't relate to that.
Which is why I'm quite pleased that the film is following the storyline from the columns - although some of the plot points seem kind of worrying. Bridget gets pregnant, and it's Daniel's?? Would Mark really take her back again, if she went back to Daniel again? Turns out we won't have to face this dilemma on screen though, as Hugh Grant won't be reprising his role as Daniel Cleaver. The film will see the return of Renee Zellweger's Bridget, Colin Firth's Mark Darcy and the new addition of...Patrick Dempsey. Yes, a Bridget Jones film without Daniel may seem like every level of wrong, but at least we won't have to shy away from the awful truth that stares you in the face in the first two films - that Bridget and Daniel have waaay more chemistry than Bridget and Mark. Sorry, but it's true.
Anyway, now we know that film three is in the works, I thought it was about time I reviewed the first one. And the book too.
Bridget Jones's Diary began it's life as a series of columns in The Independant newspaper, and was published as a novel in 1996. Very loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, it's written in casual diary form, and tells the story of Bridget, a thirty-something 'singleton' living in London. It revolves mainly around her love life - which revolves mainly around an on-off thing with her boss, Daniel Cleaver, and a will-they-won't-they thing, with human rights lawyer (and her parent's choice) Mark Darcy.
Bridget's Jones's Diary is an easy read, and the first time I read it I laughed out loud. A lot. I liked Bridget, who - in the first book at least - is a bit more normal than her film counterpart. I also liked Mark and Daniel, each in their own way. You could see why Bridget fell for both. The layout of the book, with short diary entries, lists and instant messages (a bit like a grown up Princess Diaries) makes you rush through the story, and although I try to ignore Bridget's fluctuating weight at the top of each chapter heading (it's usually less than mine...) I like that you can judge what kind of day she's had by how many cigarettes and units of alcohol she's consumed (usually a lot.)
The problem with this book - which is also kind of the point of it - is all the references to modern culture. I get it, as I'm (just) old enough to remember the nineties. I remember video players and Blind Date, and I know who Princess Diana is. But as the story and characters are very much fixed in a certain time and place, they've already dated, despite being quite modern. It's like Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor - when they started, X Factor was the cool one because it was contemporary. Strictly's always been old fashioned, so it's stood the test of time. But what made X Factor current back in the day, only shows it's age now.
Bridget Jones might make you nostalgic for the nineties - or maybe not, as Bridget Jones's Diary mainly depicts the decade as experienced by Bridget and people like her. Specifically, middle-class people in the south of England. Turkey Curry Buffets and Tarts and Vicars parties probably seem a bit odd to people outside of the UK - they're pretty alien to me, and I'm only from the north. Still, this doesn't mean I can't enjoy hearing about them. I've also never been thirty, and that doesn't stop me empathising with Bridget, so I'm not going to discriminate just because she lives in London. Bridget Jones's Diary is time and place specific, but so are a lot of books. You just learn to go with it after a while.
Although it's still very nineties, the film hasn't dated in quite the same way - and overall, I think I like it better. This is mainly due to a great cast, having fun with their like-able characters. Despite being American - and a bit over the top - Renee Zellweger made a good Bridget. Her friends are all well-cast too - I particularly like Tom. Colin Firth is a good sport, sending up both himself and the Mr. Darcy role that made him an icon (Fielding references him in the book quite a bit, as well as Hugh Grant) while still taking the role seriously enough to make Mark a suitable romantic lead. But the real revelation is Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver. Before Bridget Jones, Grant always played the nice guy - but he's so much better as the attractive sleazeball. The film wouldn't be nearly as much fun without him - good luck Bridget Jones 3.
The film made quite a few changes to the book's plot, both good and bad. Good, is of course the iconic fight between Mark and Daniel. I also think changing the book's ending - where Bridget's mother's lover (crazy European Julio, rather than the camp and creepy Julian of the film) breaks into the house at Christmas and threatens to shoot Bridget's Dad - was a wise move. Better to focus on Bridget and Mark. In the film, Bridget's mum is also more repentant about her affair. In the book she's very much the unapologetic Lydia Bennet figure, not really sorry now that Darcy has sorted out her mess for her (he gets her out of trouble with the law when she has some dodgy dealings with Julio).
Other than the thing with Bridget's mother, the Pride and Prejudice comparisons are also highlighted more in the film. Colin Firth playing Mark obviously draws attention to the Darcy thing, and in Wickham-ish fashion, Daniel tells Bridget that it was Mark that slept with his fiancee, not the other way round, where in the book there's no such lie. Bridget just goes for Daniel because... well, why does anyone go for a Daniel type?
Despite the good things, there were also some changes I didn't like. I get why the ending had to be different, but you can see the cracks where the writers have gone off book. The whole end seems a bit rushed and mad, like they're making it up as they go along. That bit where Mark's planning to leave with Natasha, and Bridget butts in and tries to give a speech? And the end scene where Bridget runs through the street in her knickers? Funny, but mad. Some of Mark's dialogue is also terrible throughout the film - particularly where he says he 'likes to think' that it was pervy, when he watched Bridget playing in the paddling pool when they were kids. Ew.
At the end of the day, Bridget Jones is classic chick-lit, and the film is a comedy classic. Helen Fielding has created an iconic character, who's easy to relate to and fun to read about. Renee Zellweger has made Bridget her own and the supporting cast are great. The second film (and book) aren't up to the standard of the first, but sequels never are. And who knows, the third film might do a Back to the Future on us, and be better than the second. Without Daniel though, I think it's unlikely.
The book - Laugh-out-loud funny, but a bit dated.
The film - A classic comedy chick flick.
Rating: They got the point