Bridget Jones's Baby


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Bridget Jones's Baby
"Zellweger has impeccable comedic timing and the many small and big risks she takes with Bridget pay off."

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), all by herself (in an Eric Carmen kind of way) on her 43rd birthday, celebrates with a cupcake and a glass of wine, dressed in what can only most flatteringly be called at-home-clothes - the type you wear when you are absolutely sure nobody sees you. Instead of moping herself to sleep, Bridget begins to dance in wild, wine-spilling abandon around her apartment. That's the spirit. That's how we know Bridget from the first two movie installments of her life; last time we checked in on her was 12 years ago.

Zellweger has impeccable comedic timing and the many small and big risks she takes with Bridget pay off. Now a successful TV news producer and, after mighty struggles in the past, finally happy with her weight, she still tends to stumble into all the pitfalls surrounding her (as they do all of us). When her friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) takes her to a muddy, carnivalesque music festival as a surprise, our heroine, dressed in casual creamy white sweater and pants because she expected to be taken to a spa, quite literally falls into a mud hole - only to be helped out by an attractive, disarming stranger (Jack, played by Patrick Dempsey).

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Yes, a lost shoe is involved and later a boot, as the Cinderella gag runs on.

Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's inventive birth mother, so to say, who co-wrote the screenplay with Emma Thompson and Dan Mazer, knows what she is doing with these, at times, cheesy gags. Director Sharon Maguire does too, and off they go happily, full sail ahead into slapstick and puns. Also back is Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), older, wiser, still the same in some of his protection mechanisms. Firth is a wonderful match for Zellweger - both actors completing the most absurd verbal and physical stunts with utmost sincerity.

Darcy (still a lawyer, still caring about the world) and Jones meet again at the funeral for his former rival, played by Hugh Grant in the two previous films. Darcy is there with his wife Camilla (Agni Scott) and Bridget, despite a successful career, feels as clumsy as ever in his presence. Zellweger beautifully plays out the contradictory feelings raging inside her. I thought about Katharine Hepburn in George Cukor's Pat And Mike, messing everything up whenever her fiancé was around. She knows what is going on and still can't help it.

In this case, the same goes for Mr. Darcy. "Would you like to get some air? More air?" he gets away with asking Bridget at a later christening - while standing outside in the open air. She has a train in her hair (don't ask), and fairy wings, and attempts to connect to her wisdom about where things may lead.

Darcy's competition, Jack, he of the music festival mud pit, is an American dating website guru, a billionaire played by Dempsey as a variation of a Disney prince. Jack comes across like the product of his own algorithms, the perfect light-as-air fantasy catalyst for the other two. If this film were directed by Stanley Donen or Vincente Minnelli, he would do magic tricks while dancing.

It is Firth's Darcy, though, who allows viewers with "8% compatibility rate" an entryway into this world - where "Hitler cats" roam, expensive bags left at an ATM at night are never retrieved, and pizzas are delivered on the way to the hospital to give birth.

Speaking of which - as the title says, Bridget will have a baby. She doesn't know which of the two men is the father and that is the catch of this tale. In Nanni Moretti's authentically absurd Mia Madre, the movie director, played by Margherita Buy, tells her cast that she wants "the actor next to the character." Zellweger, Firth, and Dempsey, with a Brechtian twinkle, imperceptibly and benevolently grin at the circus unfolding. That's how the charm works.

Where the movie is in danger of becoming tedious, out of touch, and too self-congratulatory is during Bridget's interactions with family, friends, and colleagues. Some shortcuts work, others lead us emotionally astray and into a la-di-da land that doesn't exist and never did. Dad (Jim Broadbent) hams up his insufferable lovability and Mum (Gemma Jones), running for local office, has a drastic political epiphany that turns her from conservative to become hero of all the suppressed because her daughter is pregnant.

"The old gang", meaning Bridget's girlfriends and gay male friend, most of them with children of their own already, let her down badly and then make up for it with something that suits them. The new guard at work in the TV studio, sporting ironic beards or sarcastically short fringes, signal the way into a bad future for news broadcasts, where numbers rule and a segment on genocide has to compete with "Is Your Freezer Giving You Alzheimer?"

None of these people you would want to know. They are more often than not caricatures throwing catch words at each other. Dolphins, Tinder, a women's rights march blocking traffic, unemployment - the shortcuts rarely pay off. On the other hand, Emma Thompson, as Bridget's gynecologist, appears to have written some very funny, biting lines for herself and the tacky musical choices are to be taken hilariously literally. And Bridget clobbers all viciousness. "Never, never," Zellweger told me during a recent lunch, does she rely on mean-spiritedness.

The best scene encompasses all of the above. Mark and Jack deliver Bridget, ready to give birth, to the hospital. They carry her. All of them struggle through the revolving doors together. To save energy? Then the two men lay her on top of the hospital reception desk with the full, proud earnestness of a cat presenting you with a freshly caught mouse at your feet.

Overcoming obstacles by forgiving yourself for the stupid embarrassing things you do instead of turning them against others - Bridget Jones is a good reminder of that.

Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2016
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Bridget Jones' life plan goes awry when she discovers she's pregnant - and not sure who the father is.
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Director: Sharon Maguire

Writer: Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Sally Phillips, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Shirley Henderson, Sarah Solemani

Year: 2016

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland, UK, France, US


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