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Back in the Girdle 

Sometimes you'd just like to grab Hollywood by the shirt collar and slap his shameless ass silly. That burst of indignation best characterizes my response to Beeban Kidron's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, a money-grubbing sequel that embarrasses almost everybody associated with it and stains my pleasant memories of Sharon Maguire's original Bridget Jones's Diary.

Adapted by a committee of writers from Helen Fielding's widely panned novel that similarly soiled the reputation of her first Bridget book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, picks up shortly after the end of the first story in which slightly overweight but utterly lovable Bridget (Renée Zellweger) survives the romantic treason of her boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and ends up with the man of her dreams, wealthy lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). We're a couple of months later as the sequel opens, and the two lovers are about to be flown from paradise on the wings of Bridget's relentless insecurity, baseless jealousy and hapless clumsiness. In the first movie, we rooted for our destined lovers to find each other. In this picture, Bridget is made into such an utter twit we haven't got a clue why Mark seems so stubbornly to want her.

Predictable in its broad plot strokes, The Edge of Reason follows the formula of girl has boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back -- not a fundamental surprise to be had. The individual scenes are less predictable because they are so baldly contrived. Bridget still has the on-air television feature-reporting job she had in the first film. But whereas her job in the original sometimes put her in a pickle, now it seems to exist to humiliate her. For a segment on extreme sports, Bridget is forced to sky dive and manages, improbably, to land in a pig sty. Some might find her manure-smeared jumpsuit merely disgusting. But Bridget's bosses think her embarrassment is hilarious and call for a close-up of her ample, befouled bottom.

From there, we move Bridget through a gauntlet of physical degradation. In order to look slimmer for a fancy party that she's attending with Mark, Bridget squeezes herself into a panty girdle that practically cuts off her circulation. She goes to a hairstylist who must normally prepare coifs for Bozo the Clown and the Bride of Frankenstein. Then for reasons that bear no relationship to the neurotically cautious Bridget we met in the first film, our heroine goes out of her way to abase herself at a banquet. This leads to a fight with Mark and behavior on Bridget's part that makes no sense whatsoever. The thing she wants most in life is to make her relationship with Mark work, yet she just won't settle for his loving her.

Mark, meanwhile, is forced to undergo an inconsistent transformation of his own. In the first film, he's depicted as stiff but not stuffy. He's not flamboyant about it, but he rejects his family's withering elitism. Now he's a human-rights lawyer with an international reputation, but all of a sudden he's the snob Bridget thought him to be but it turned out he wasn't in the first film.

And as if all this isn't aggravating enough, the script has two more developments that make you grind your teeth. First, Bridget is sent to Thailand for reasons at once ridiculous and unclear. This sequence culminates with her being arrested for drug smuggling and my wife holding my arm as I drew back to hurl my soft drink toward the screen. Here, the picture abandons any pretense of finding comedy in a realistic world. No more than is Bridget incarcerated than has she traded her red bra for a pack of cigarettes and organized her fellow inmates into Club Madonna. Second, Bridget succumbs once again to the erotic manipulation of Daniel Cleaver. Sure, she was involved with him in the first film, and, yes, Grant renders Daniel handsome, charming and funny. But the Bridget we knew in the original would never give him the second chance he very much doesn't deserve. And if you still need a reason to give this flick a pass, here's another one: I admire actors who are willing to sacrifice their natural attractiveness in service to their art, which Zellweger did that for Bridget Jones's Diary and which Charlize Theron did for Monster. But something absolutely doesn't work with The Edge of Reason. This Bridget isn't, as the saying used to put it, pleasingly plump; she's bloated and blotched. Zellweger gained the weight for a role not worthy of her, and I worry about her health. Moreover, the weight this time seems to have made the actress uncomfortable in her own body. She doesn't move the way a naturally chubby person would but rather like a person artificially restrained. I hope the presumably poor performance of this film will keep Zellweger from ever being tempted to do this again.

click to enlarge Why am I here? Bridget Jones (Rene Zellweger) undergoes yet another degradation in the overall degrading sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
  • Why am I here? Bridget Jones (Rene Zellweger) undergoes yet another degradation in the overall degrading sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
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