½*/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras C+
starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent
screenplay by Andrew Davies and Helen Fielding and Richard Curtis and Adam Brooks, based on the novel by Fielding
directed by Beeban Kidron
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. The gusto with which a certain audience will guffaw at Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (henceforth Bridget Jones 2)--will buffet each other on the back in robust bonhomie at a joke well told and a prejudice indulged in appropriate company--says all there really is to say about the class schism that the film itself broaches but stops short of actually addressing. (If you squint, you can see them rendered satiric as swine in top hats, smoking cheap cigars and playing cards in their pearls and print dresses.) We reunite with our porcine heroine (Renée Zellweger) a little more than a month after the end of the first film, at which point she's shagged her new boyfriend Darcy (Colin Firth) a lot but remains saddled with her suspicions that he's a prick. He's a lawyer, see, and clearly too good for her, so Bridget, as is her wont, proceeds to embarrass herself in polite stuffed-shirt company, scoffing at the prig who suggests that giving to charity is bad and pretending to be able to ski whilst wrapped in a dreadful pink jumper. The resulting delightfully-patronizing humiliations are the sort of thing generally installed as the engine in romance novels, the main audience for which is one that looks like Bridget, is probably ten years older, and would be surprised to see that, were a film ever actually made of their fantasy projection of themselves onto the heroine role of their little pulp bodice-rippers, would look just as preposterous as Bridget Jones 2.
It's eye-roll theatre, an opera of mortification. The folks who enjoy it the most will feign an identification with pathological loser Bridget but secretly take some comfort in laughing at a figure more ridiculous than themselves. It's not identification with the clown, after all, that causes people to laugh when shown the deadpan reactions of the normal people in the film. The first gag of the picture is Bridget, terrified, jumping out of an airplane for a puff-piece she's anchoring for her television station and forgetting to pull the cord until the reserve chute deploys on its own, landing her in a pig pen face-first (one of two face-plants in the picture). As she proceeds to smear herself with shit for the bemusement of her imaginary television audience (and, troublingly, her real movie audience), her in-studio producer urges a "close-up on the porker," and so the cameraman zooms in on Bridget's ass. Later, on a monitor, we're gifted with a different shot on a loop of Bridget's ass coming down right at the camera at an angle that's impossible to have been captured according to the physics of the scene we've just seen. The only solution to this puzzle is that veteran bad director Beeban Kidron (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar) has gone back and filmed Zellweger's fat ass specifically to function as the punchline to the joke that Bridget/Zellweger is a blimp. You tell me how funny you think it is that Bridget is fat, or how safe it is to laugh at Zellweger's size-14 ass if everyone on the planet knows that it's already back down to a size-2.
It's the equivalent, really, of Monster recast as a jejune, virulently offensive Richard Curtis rom-com wherein the audience is encouraged to chortle at Charlize Theron playing a clumsy fat girl. (Dressing up in a sumo suit and doing prat falls for the invalid ward for ninety minutes can reproduce this sort of humour.) Bridget Jones 2 is woefully directed, easily the most ineptly-helmed mainstream film since the last time somebody decided that the place to save money was in something so inconsequential as choice of director. The picture satisfies convention by having a few musical montages for dressing up and breaking up but uses both as further opportunity to mock Bridget's fashion sense and gluttony. It's sort of fascinating to consider that the film itself can be boiled down to a mean-spirited voyeuristic exercise in which Bridget acts like a retarded person wandering into contrived situations without knowing that a bunch of folks are sitting in dark movie theatres laughing at her. Even more fascinating that the target audience is largely comprised of middlebrow women making it out to the movies for the first time since Bridget Jones's Diary, travelling in meticulously-choreographed cotillions and wiping the laugh-spit off each other's chins with quilt squares--the filmmakers hoping all the while that none of these people quite get that if the joke is on Bridget, and Bridget is what the filmmakers think is representative of their audience, then the joke is on them.
The screenplay-by-committee gives proof to the old thing about monkeys and typewriters, while a late-film digression where Bridget finds herself in a Thai prison scrapes new lows by making light of the native women's plight, employing each of them as brown servants (Slant-eye for the White Gal) of the capricious whims of the master plot. It's not so bad in Midnight Express land, Kidron tells us: they smoke cigarettes, eat chocolate, and sing "Like a Virgin" in accordance with the film's inexplicable obsession with Madonna. Call it cultural empiricism--except that it's American culture, not British, right? (Just another example of an instance where the Limeys would have been better served telling the Yanks to stuff it.) My favourite is the scene where Bridget learns that she's going to go free but is in tears because she realizes that her suspicion, paranoia, churlish behaviour, abhorrent manners, lack of grace, crassness, and smothering, obsessive, stalker-like tendencies (isn't she adorable?) may have finally alienated her precious Darcy. "Ees good noos, no?" pidgins her cellmate (with whom she's bonded by sharing her Wonderbra)--and, well, it would have been had it freed one of the dark women in the prison, who are presumably there until they die. But, hey, at least they had the pleasure of brief acquaintance with our Bridget.
Bridget Jones 2 is an atrocious film. Sharp-eyed viewers (this is a trick criteria, because sharp-eyed viewers will have split long before they can sharp-eye this thing) may note that the way Bridget is reminded that the asshole from the previous film (Hugh Grant, playing himself) is still an asshole in the second is his hiring of a Thai prostitute. And they'll remember that the prisoners who share Bridget's brief internment later in the film are mostly there because they were forced into lives of prostitution by abusive boyfriends. Troubling, then, that Kidron and her twee compatriots manage to mock this call girl twice. (A third if you count the revelation that she's a transvestite.) Bridget Jones 2 is unkind to gays and lesbians, unkind to minorities (except blacks, who, again per convention, have their music used to suggest exoticism and hotness in this whitest of white films), and unkind to overweight women. It's not funny, it's overlong and repetitive, but now that it's coincided with Brett Ratner's After the Sunset in both theatres and on DVD, there's at least the sense of balance in the universe: something for the ignorant boors with the Y chromosome, something for the ignorant boors without it. Originally published: November 12, 2004.
by Bill Chambers Universal issues Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason on DVD in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer* that does little to enhance the film's appeal. Actually, I'm pretty sure we can hold cinematographer Adrian Biddle accountable for any presentational deficiencies, given that his previous rom-com, Laws of Attraction, looked exactly this way on home video: sooty contrast, pallid colours; I actually much prefer the full-figured Renée Zellweger to the actress's Karen Carpenter delusion of herself, but she looks bloated here rather than voluptuous--sickly instead of alabaster. A shame, really, since breathing a little artificial vibrancy into the image might have taken a bit of bile out of the film's constant shaming of Bridget's appearance. (Bridget Jones's Diary's DP Stuart Dryburgh is sorely missed.) The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is complementary in that it lacks bite, although voices, music, and effects are all perfectly audible and legible. On another track, director Beeban Kidron provides an optional feature-length commentary full of immodest pronouncements on how crowd-pleasing the sitcom-level jokes are and how she hopes that Madonna will enjoy the movie when she sees it. (Not if--when.) I was grateful for her frequent bouts of silence.
Slotted arbitrarily into three precious categories, the disc's remaining bonus material breaks down as follows:
DANIEL'S HOTEL ROOM
The Big Fight (5 mins.)
Kidron (who looks and sounds uncannily like Witch Hazel from the Bugs Bunny cartoons) says that co-screenwriter Richard Curtis mandated a big fight between "the boys" in both films--a clever way to re-route those pitchfork- and torch-wielding villagers. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth mildly amuse with their trash talk.
Who's Your Man? Quiz
Scientific proof that I detested these characters: the results of this COSMO-style questionnaire told me that neither Grant's Daniel nor Firth's Mark were my Mr. Right.
Deleted Scenes with Intros (10 mins.)
Kidron individually introduces this pair of elisions, the first of which finds Mark chastising Bridget for making him miss the final showing of The Silent War (were we really to believe that he's up on his Turkish crime thrillers from the '60s?). Ick. The second and longest passage to get the axe--which Kidron describes with characteristic humility as "a truly marvellous sequence"--sees Bridget having an inevitable baby fantasy post-break-up. Ick ick. Both were cut, it seems, for not being funny enough. By that logic, this movie should be fourteen seconds long.
MARK'S LAW OFFICE
Mark & Bridget: Forever (5 mins.)
So long as it's offscreen, more power to them.
Bridget Jones Interviews Colin Firth (3 mins.)
According to another of Kidron's video prologues, this was a notorious episode from the book whose absence in the film probably disappointed fans, but it inevitably didn't work on the big screen. Though Bridget's Chris Farley-esque interrogation of Firth may raise a begrudging smile (she solicits Firth's opinion on whether Richard Curtis "spored his own gender" with Love Actually), it also begs the question: if Bridget is this stupid and annoying and--according to the film--Sasquatch-like, how in God's name did she land a steady job as a TV personality? There's suspension of disbelief, and then there's sticking crayons up your nose.
Lonely London (3 mins.)
Alex Hope of Double Negative, the film's visual effects house, narrates a deconstruction of the semi-bravura tracking shot across London from Bridget's window to Mark strolling along a sidewalk--originally a graveyard, but Kidron felt that was much too "grim."
Cast/filmmaker biographies/filmographies round out the platter. There's a choice at the start to watch Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in "quiz" mode, but nothing changed after I activated it. Originally published: April 5, 2005.
*also available in fullscreen
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