Film of the book: ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)

Only when I finally read the original book by Helen Fielding did I realise how the film is significantly different. It’s a rom-com, without the overtly feminist element, zeitgeist-capturing and social conscience of the book. The film was turned into an obvious re-hash of the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice – not only is Andrew Davies one of the scriptwriters (the others are the author herself and somewhat inevitably Richard Curtis) and Colin Firth reprising his Mr Darcy role; a ‘wet shirt’ scene is given to Hugh Grant (who interestingly enough is mentioned in the book, which refers to his infamous arrest in 1995), there is a cameo from Crispin Bonham-Carter (aka Mr Bingley) and the plot and dialogue are very much altered, just in case you didn’t know about the P & P connection. I realise that the diary had to be made into more of a coherent story, but the film was ridiculously clichéd towards the end.

Other differences include the dramatically toned-down plot involving Bridget’s mother and shady fancy-man Julio (and which in the book is a major factor in Bridget changing her mind about Mark), the absence of side-plots such as her best friend Tom’s disappearance, Bridget stating her weight in pounds instead of stones (obviously to cater for the American audience), the character of Daniel Cleaver being nicer and more romantic than in the book, and a number of extremely embarrassing events with comedy value. One of the best-known moments in the film, when Daniel seduces Bridget and finds that she’s wearing giant knickers, would never have happened in the book – even though Bridget has a laundry crisis, she refuses to wear large pants, for fear of that very same embarrassment occurring. I think it’s fair to say that the film version of Bridget is a more bumbling, less cynical character. Renée Zellweger does play her very well (and one can’t fault her dedication to the role, for which she put on weight and perfected her English accent), yet I don’t warm to her.

I would appreciate more realism in this film and less rom-com silliness, but in some respects it summarises the book nicely.

Low-resolution film poster sourced from Wikipedia.

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