Re-write this diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones and her big pole.

Bridget Jones and her big pole.

Rated 2.0

For something to start so promisingly and conclude so drearily is a shame. That, and the fact that numerous wonderful performances are ultimately wasted, makes Bridget Jones’s Diary the biggest disappointment at the movies so far this year.

That’s not saying it’s the worst movie. It’s far from that. In actuality, I found myself nearly loving this film for the first half-hour, then being tremendously let down as a clever setup led to routine Hollywood romance claptrap.

Renee Zellweger, so good in last year’s Nurse Betty, is mega-charming as Bridget, a slightly overweight, drinking, smoking social mess. At a Christmas party, a former childhood friend she is reintroduced to (Colin Firth) makes the sort of comments about her personality that should be unforgivable, and this sets the stage for Bridget’s journal-keeping, where she resolves to lose weight, quit her bad habits and cease all major mistakes with men.

That last part becomes her first failure, as she starts an office romance with one of her bosses, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant in a great performance), an undeniably fun and shameless man who gives her self-esteem a significant boost before he inevitably screws her over. The screw-over sets the stage for Bridget to direct her attentions elsewhere, mainly on Colin Firth’s character, the film’s largest mistake.

The movie is based on a novel, so it has a definite plot trajectory, which is sad, because the film is never more interesting than when Bridget and Daniel are behaving naughtily. Firth’s character is so bland, and the movie stops dead every time he inhabits the screen. Zellweger and Grant are too fabulous together for the good of the movie, which sets out to separate them for the usual reasons of infidelity and male scumbag behavior. Things would’ve worked better had it just been about the office relationship. I’m not saying they had to stay together, but throwing another, all-too-uninteresting guy into the fray just complicates things.

Another big problem is that we’re supposed to sympathize with Bridget’s “plight” as a non-perfect, put-upon woman. Well, she has quite a few guys interested in her in this movie, all of them relatively handsome and well-off, so it’s pretty hard to sympathize with her. I also found myself bristling when Firth’s character proclaims that he likes Bridget “just the way she is,” like he’s doing her some sort of favor by passing along his blessed, hallowed affections to a woman beneath him. It’s Renee Zellweger, one of the cutest, sweetest entities walking God’s green Earth, for Christ’s sake!

Anybody looking to break into television broadcasting will get a good snicker out of Bridget’s simply declaring she wants to go into TV, and then becoming a televised beat reporter overnight. I don’t think so. If you are in that line of work, you are well aware of the seemingly endless clawing and scratching to get an internship, let alone a big-time reporter gig.

Any momentum the film manages to build is completely gone by the final act, when we are supposed to laugh as Bridget humiliates herself running after a self-serving man in her underwear during a snowstorm. The whole finale is embarrassing.

Besides Zellweger (who does a great job with the British accent) and Grant, I liked the relationship between Bridget’s parents (Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones). Had the film spent more time on their quirky marriage problems, it would’ve been in more entertaining territory.

I don’t know how faithful Bridget Jones’s Diary is to the very popular book it was adapted from. I know this: If this movie is a faithful adaptation, there is one very mediocre, overrated book on the market right now.