I Swear I'm Not Lying to You: 'Bridget Jones's Baby' Is Actually Really Great
If you’ve seen the trailer or posters for, or really even just heard about the existence of Bridget Jones’s Baby— the third installment of the character’s franchise, coming 15 years after the first movie— I’m going to assume you’ve probably set your expectations pretty low for this movie. Maybe somewhere between ‘dumpster fire of unnecessary boredom’ and ‘why are we even talking about this?’ There’s an abundance of reasons why you’re absolutely not wrong in assuming that. To start, this is top entry in the No One Asked For This category. I’m not sure what demographic they were betting on being excited for reviving this character, but it’s hard to believe very many people were clamoring for this, especially after the abysmal sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. (That’s the one where our heroine teaches women to dance like Madonna while locked up in a Thai prison— yes, really— in case you’ve blocked that out.)
The lowest possible bar Bridget Jones’s Baby needed to clear was to be better than that piece of trash. And congratulations, Bridget, it did. But I found myself consistently amazed that it did so much more than that. It’s not the classic of the first movie, but that low Edge of Reason bar is so far below this movie, it’s not even visible.
This new installment fits in with recent long-gap revivals. With properties like Veronica Mars and Ab Fab (and soon, Gilmore Girls) being brought back years after they left us, there are major traps we’ve now seen these sequels fall into, hard. While the former focused on pandering to fans over creating a solid movie, the latter chose to revel in the fun, the gimmick, and the event of the revival. Neither, though, hit the mark of great movie. Amazingly, BJB manages to be a good, solid movie and a great sequel. And that’s an impressive feat.
What really grounds this movie is that now, years later, they fucking nail Bridget. She is a different person, but her changes and growth (and lack thereof in certain areas) all feel natural and organic. She feels less like a writer’s imagined version of what Bridget would be like now, and more like this character has continued to exist and live quietly offscreen for the last decade. I’m not sure how they did this, but I’m going to guess that the rewrite by Emma Thompson (who also plays Bridget’s delightfully curmudgeonly OBGYN) had something to do with it.
When we meet Bridget now, she’s 43, a producer on a news program, still single, but generally content. After being ditched by her friends (the same three who have been by her side since the beginning, at least two of whom have been fleshed out into peripheral but perfectly updated versions of themselves) on her birthday to take care of their children, Bridget leaves for a party weekend at a music festival with her much younger, hot, news anchor/good friend. There are some hijinks and some pratfalls (and a totally unnecessary scene devoted to Ed Sheeran?), but mostly there is Bridget, letting her wall down to break a long dry spell and have an all-night sex fest with an American stranger. (His name, we later learn is Jack, played by Patrick Dempsey, who in my opinion is the laughably lopsided point in the movie’s love triangle. But he DID play a character called McDreamy, so maybe I’m just missing something.)
A week later, she also, through a series of events that could easily have felt contrived but actually flow naturally, falls back into bed/possibly love with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Bridget’s two dalliances are thankfully not a source of judgement, but when she then becomes pregnant, she finds herself unable to admit the paternal mystery. Both men surprise her by reacting with joy and dedication, not just to the baby, but to her. Through some decently constructed circumstances (she refuses to have an amniocentesis, for one), we know we’re not going to get that DNA test, and the presumed happily ever after with the father) until the end of this movie.
While the film is more than a bit uneven, with some completely unnecessary entire scenes (and whole plotlines), and some messages they can’t seem to trust we’ve gotten without knocking us out with them over multiple scenes or conversations, it is engaging till the very end. It’s all too common for comedies to be frontloaded, with weak third act trail-offs. Bridget Jones’s Baby only gets stronger as its runtime goes on.
The biggest issue I had— and you might have as well— with this installment might not actually have anything to do with the movie itself, but the context in which it landed. This movie has no interest in being— to use a term I despise— PC. Meaning, there is a vague undertone of mild racism (against Italians, oddly), and not exactly gay jokes, but a subtle, yet outdated levity with how they discuss “the gays.” And despite the extent to which Bridget Jones analyzed and commented on her weight in the first movie (and book), one single comment about hitting her “target weight” here is more uncomfortable than anything else.
I’m not sure what’s changed, the character or the audience. Would that comment seem out of place if much of the audience hadn’t been reading piece after piece criticizing Renee Zellweger for being too skinny in the lead-up to the movie? Or if we hadn’t read the interviews that tell us Bridget Jones looks how she does, not because it was a choice for the character, but because Zellweger refused to gain weight? Because the change suits her— it fits the narrative perfectly that she’s spent a decade focusing on her job and her health and body. This Bridget is a completely believable version of who this character would be now.
So all of the infuriating internet conversations swarming around this summer about how hard it would be to watch this movie because this isn’t the Bridget we know have been proven to be nothing but bullshit. This 43-year-old woman IS Bridget. From her face to her body to her choices to her heart, this is a perfect update to this woman we fell in love with 15 years ago.
Bridget Jones’s Baby may not transcend its genre in the way that the original— an honest classic— did. But if you’ve already been looking forward to a date or a boozy fun ladies’ night with this movie, it won’t disappoint. And if you’re being dragged along to one of those events, you can breathe easier. Because this is not the thing you expected to have to suffer through. It won’t be your new favorite movie, but it’s fun, smart, and Colin Firth has a LOT of screentime. Bonus.
Vivian Kane just really, really doesn’t get Patrick Dempsey.
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