Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

dir. Sharon Maguire

starring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth

genre: Comedy

awards: Academy Award Winner

If you were to ask her, the fictional Bridget Jones -- with Renee Zellweger forever associated in our minds as her embodiment -- might say that her diary is her writing practice and that it serves as a means for her self-discovery. I wouldn't be surprised that, after the release of Bridget Jones's Diary, the sale of diaries and journals positively soared.

Aside from the fact that Bridget partly uses her diary in the service of what feminists have been fighting for decades -- a woman's obsession with her weight and an irrational preoccupation with men -- you do get the sense that her diary is, if not her best friend, certainly one of them. It is in her diary that she can be exactly who she is without feeling embarrassment or disgust and, most importantly, without feeling judged. It is in her diary that she is at liberty to explore -- and develop -- an inner life.

It is to her diary that Bridget promises to adopt the usual self-improvement regime; confesses her habit of guzzling too much chardonnay; slavishly notates her daily caloric intake; makes catty observations about her co-workers at the publishing house; and unabashedly remarks on her fantasies about her sexy, but irascible and duplicitous boss Daniel Cleaver, (as played by an unusually Mephistophelean Hugh Grant). Let's face it, no human friend would tolerate listening to a girlfriend's compulsive daily tally of her weight, especially if it were an enviable one hundred and twenty pounds! How might the friend respond? "Get over yourself!" comes to mind. What saves Bridget Jones's Diary from being annoying is that Zellweger's Bridget never settles into a cloying self-pity, she remains entertaining even when in a deep funk and entirely endearing and utterly real in all her personal revelations.

Clearly there is a connection between the mixture of insouciance, wit, and candor that the inner Bridget displays in her diary and the disarmingly openhearted charm, implacable integrity, and enchanted unworldliness that infuse her persona and her actions out in the world, whether she is bumbling a welcoming speech on behalf of Salman Rushdie delivered at a book launching party or apologizing to Daniel for her dowdy oversize knickers (that no fashion-conscious adolescent would be caught dead in, let alone a thirty-something woman on her first date with her boss!). Call it practice. The more she is herself in her diary, the more she can be herself in public.

The variation on the self-indulgent Cinderella myth is, of course, irresistible to many women -- of any age. Take a single woman on a Friday evening spellbound by a juicy fantasy of Prince Charming or Mr. Right. Give her a mid-range bottle of white wine, add one television set, throw in a terrycloth robe and a pair of white cotton socks -- a comfortable couch with extra pillows is a must, a dog, even a cat, would be nice -- and what single woman in her twenties, thirties, forties, fifties (how far up the decade ladder should I go?) doesn't relate to Bridget's situation? Perhaps all they need is a diary of one's own.

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