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Bridget Jones’s Baby

September 16, 2016
Bridget Jones's Baby

The year of inexplicable, long-delayed sequels continues with Bridget Jones’s Baby. Except that unlike, say, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, there already was a theatrical sequel to Bridget Jones’s Diary: 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Didn’t remember that? neither did I, to be honest.

And yet it did a fair amount of business. Not quite as much as the first one, but it turned a tidy profit on its modest budget. So when Helen Fielding released a third volume of her alter ego’s comedic exploits, it was only a matter of time before they made another movie having little to do with the new novel.

It is, however, based on Fielding’s columns from shortly after the period covered by the last movie. Fielding herself is back writing, with help from Dan Mazer — better known as Sacha Baron Cohen’s writing partner — and Emma Thompson. They’ve even got Sharon Maguire back directing again, after she sat out the second round.

Not back is Hugh Grant. As Bridget (Renée Zellweger) turns 43, her ex-boss and ex-lover is dead. It’s at his funeral that she runs into her other notable ex-lover, Mark “Mister” Darcy (Colin Firth) along with his wife. Or, rather, soon-to-be ex-wife, as she learns whens he runs into him again at a friend’s child’s christening. Which, in the circles Bridget and Mark run in is evidently an all-day and overnight affair with catering and an open bar.

That’s all well and good, but a week previously she’d been dragged on a birthday outing to a music festival, at which she’d drunkenly stumbled into the yurt — and then into the bed — of American billionaire Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey, looking and sounding for all the world like an off-brand Rob Lowe). And when she turns up pregnant, she has no idea which of the two is the father.

From here the action is largely predictable. First we get an obstetric version of the sitcom trope about scheduling two dates on one night. Soon enough Mark and Jack are informed of each other’s existence and both try to participate in the birth preparations together. And then everything goes to hell just in time for Bridget’s water to break, turning the labor into its own comedy of errors.

There’s nothing really wrong with any of it, that awful possessive form in the title aside. It’s just not very surprising. And there’s a certain comfort in the familiarity of its humor, and in knowing it’s not about to challenge any but the most regressive sorts who probably think the idea of a woman having even one lover before marriage is already wicked.

The most central tension, for instance, is “who’s the ‘real’ father?” where the genetic basis of fatherhood is never questioned. The script jumps through one hoop to avoid an early amniocentesis that would have settled the issue, and conveniently avoids it from then on. But what does it matter anyway? isn’t it more important who would be the better partner both in life and in raising a child? Of course, that would require a lot more work to make a competition between these two men remotely believable.

No, it’s easier on writers and audience alike to just give us exactly what we expect. Far from ambitious, but just as far from offensive, Bridget Jones’s Baby delivers exactly the sort of pleasant distraction it promises.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: pass.

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