You probably saw the trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby and rolled your eyes, right? Gagged in your mouth a bit at the lack of originality in Hollywood these days? And you would have every right to. It seems like every movie coming out is either a sequel, a franchise film, or a remake. Another Bridget Jones film, weren’t we done with those over a decade ago? Do we really NEED another?
Simply put the answer is no. Of course we don’t need another Bridget Jones movie. But I do have to say that by some miracle, this sequel was actually not bad at all. In fact, it was really really good. And the more I think about it, the more this fact continues to impress me.
When we first met Bridget in 2001, she was sitting on her couch listening to and passionately singing “All By Myself.” We meet her the same way in 2016, but after a few lines of the song she stops. She skips the song and switches to “Jump Around” by House of Pain. She runs around her apartment rapping along, going from lonely to empowered. And this is the first step of her character’s drastic transformation.
I’m a huge fan of Bridget Jones. I could watch Bridget Jones’s Diary once a week for the rest of my life and only start to get tired of it by my 87th birthday. But even I walked into the movie theatre expecting to be monumentally disappointed. It seemed like overkill and a big stretch. Richard Curtis has no hand in it. We have no Hugh Grant, and instead replaced him with Patrick Dempsey (an American for god’s sake). And she’s pregnant and can’t tell who the father is? How does she end up in these love triangles all the time? This is a bit with little room to grow, destined to get old.
But somehow, it doesn’t. It is perhaps one of, if not the best rom-coms I have seen all year, which almost defies logic. But the key to its success is not a change of structure, pace or pattern. It is a change of Bridget.
This Bridget is just as lovably awkward, relatable, and prone to error as she has been in the past. But she carries herself much differently. She has less self-pity, much more confidence, all of which makes sense. She is now a top news producer at a national station, which has always been her dream job. She lives her life according to her, not the way anyone else wants her to live it.
She’s single, sure, but doesn’t let it get the best of her. That is, until she gets pregnant and needs to figure out who the dad is for the sake of both the child and her own sanity. But even still, she finds initial content in raising a child alone if that’s what it all comes down to. If Dad wants in, then so be it, but she has the strength of mind to go on alone, which is inspiring to see.
Seeing Bridget in her 40’s also totally changes the game for movies in the genre. Instead of young twenty somethings finding love, we have actors all aged 47 and up caught in a love triangle filled with heartbreak and courtship. Middle aged romance stories don’t often make their way to the silver screen. And if they do, it is somehow about them being old, and one partner dies, or gets cancer, or something really sad. But here we see the same humor and charm we would see in any other romantic comedy. It’s filled with moments that are funny enough to have you hop out of your seat laughing, and moments sweet enough that you grab your chest and audibly say “awww” in a crowded movie theatre filled with women at least 20 years older than you. Though maybe this was just me.
But what caused this sudden push to have Bridget become a pioneer kick-ass kind of female lead? The Bridget Jones films have always had way more female writers and directors on set than the usual film. (Which isn’t really that hard since a lot of movies have a whopping zero.) But there is one notable removal, and one addition to the crew Bridget Jones’s Baby.
The mastermind behind the first two Bridget movies was Richard Curtis, whom I love and adore and if I had to pick one writer/director to somehow turn my dull life into a movie, I would probably pick him. But through no fault of his own, he is a boy. So while he still does write interesting female characters, they naturally don’t have the same authenticity as female characters written by women. But penning this movie, the main credits go to Emma Thompson, whom the world may know from Sense and Sensibility, (Richard Curtis’s) Love Actually, and even the Harry Potter franchise.
Take Thompson’s incredible wit and pair it with Sharon Maguire, who directed Bridget Jones’s Diary, and that is just a recipe for a strong female character. The more women that are behind the camera, the better the women in front of the camera are. It is a simple and almost undeniable truth. And even though this first two Bridget films did have a lot of women, adding Emma Thompson (plus the context of a feminist-centric era) gave Bridget the push she needed to become stronger and more independent.
She reflects a modern woman, who lives her life, does her job, goes out, has fun and takes command of what she wants regardless of how old she is. She stays just as relatable, but just a new whole new way. We get to see her grow and learn and that is what prevents this movie from falling flat on its head. The transformation of Bridget Jones wraps up (at least I’m assuming this is a wrap) her trilogy perfectly, ending it on a remarkably high note. Seeing a female grow and change in this direction alone is a feminist act, as we get to see a real woman, which is a creature that rarely makes its way to the big screen.