Remember Bridget Jones when we first fell for her?
She was always resolving to shed those last 10 (okay, 15) pounds. She had an unhealthy reliance on her friends’ opinions on life, love, and how to land a man. She got involved with the wrong guys before learning to spot the right one. She wore stomach-supporting granny panties at the most inopportune moments.
In short, she was one of us.
Not so any longer. The new Bridget is bigger, brasher, and nowhere near the kind of thirtysomething girl we singletons and former singletons can relate to. Whereas the original Bridget presented the world an attractive-enough young woman, who was loveable if a bit fashion-challenged, this Bridget is a puffy, chapped-lipped, greasy-haired mess who’s entire career is an experiment in humiliation. And as we get to know the new and greatly unimproved Miss Jones, it becomes abundantly clear why she’s still “Miss.”
Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones has more tact than Bridget. Though we left her blissfully contented in the arms of her new beau at the end of the last film, in this one, Bridget seems inexplicably driven to undo every bit of progress she has made on the road to happiness.
Most women in new relationships experience a few pangs of irrational jealousy. But unless we are of the Glenn Close, rabbit-boiling persuasion, we have the good sense to keep our mouths shut, or at least contain our emotions to passive-aggressive asides or a simple, “Do you think she’s prettier than me?”
Bridget, on the other hand, resorts to bonafide stalking. After Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) hires an attractive new assistant (Jacinda Barrett, Ladder 49), Bridget takes it upon herself to peer through his windows, scale his trellis, and break in on his business meetings. Not content to jeopardize her relationship with near-criminal spying, she also endeavors to offend everyone in Darcy’s social and professional circles. After showing up to his Barrister Ball in a dress that is more call-girl than couture, she proceeds to tell her potential lifemate’s colleagues that they are heartless, rightwing fascists. And she’s not even drunk when she does it.
Yet strangely, for someone who’s so obsessively in love, Bridget’s only too willing to chuck her new sweetie at the drop of a mere crossword. As demanding as she is insecure, she breaks up with the dashing Darcy, complaining that he’s “unwilling to fight for [her]” despite the fact that only a few minutes earlier, in one of the few scenes resembling a real-life relationship, he does exactly that by being the first to apologize after a fight.
Even more incomprehensible, as unforgiving as she is of her true love, Bridget is equally merciful to her horrible, rotten, idiotic friend Shazzer who brashly advises her to break up with a wonderful man, tricks her into taking hallucinogenic drugs, and leaves her holding the bag (literally) in front of foreign drug-enforcement officers.
Every sort of implausible mishap befalls Bridget–from landing in Thai prison to being the unwitting love obsession of a lipstick lesbian. The only credible self-sabotaging move she makes is when she nearly succumbs to the charms of everyone’s favorite lothario, the detestable Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who is once again so wonderfully oily, you half hope he succeeds in seducing the bubble-headed Bridget (though you can’t for a moment understand why he would want to).
This is not to say that this film, like the first, doesn’t have its amusing moments. Despite the fact that Director Beeban Kidron seems to be doing everything she can to make Renee Zellweger appear unattractive, some of the actress’s natural appeal shines through. And even though we know from the overplayed film trailers that the moment is coming, when Grant and Firth reprise their famous fistfight, the result is genuine hilarity.
But Heaven help us if the new Bridget Jones is taken to be any sort of reflection on modern womanhood. Sure, we of the fairer sex have been known to be a bit mad in our search for the one–but we aren’t bleedin’ morons, to use an English turn of phrase.
Instead, I believe we 21st-century women are still more Elizabeth Bennett than we are Bridget Jones. There’s a reason why there was no Pride and Prejudice: The Edge of Reason. She may have been misguided at first, but the wise and witty Miss Bennett knew how to hold on to her Mr. Darcy once she got him.
–Megan Basham is a freelance writer in Phoenix, Arizona, and a current Phillips Foundation fellow.