Bridget is back – and there is a lot of good to be said indeed for Bridget Jones’s Baby.
It is superbly, laugh-a-minute funny, with many a comic mishap from Bridget and her pals. Her mother has now entered local politics as a glorious wannabe Thatcher. And Patrick Dempsey is gloriously handsome.
Better still, however, is the presentation of Bridget as a forty-something ‘SPILF’ (Spinster I’d Like To Fuck). The action opens with her switching off the iconic ‘All By Myself’ tune and instead performing an energising boogie to ‘Jump Around’. New Age Bridge goes from music festivals with her thirty-something colleague, where dances as enthusiastically as a seven year old on E-numbers, with bossing people (nicely) in her role as a high-powered television producer.
The supporting characters are brilliant too, with special reference to the darling Emma Thompson as the doctor, and – a performance underrated in reviews so far, I think – Kate O’Flynn as Bridget’s hideously hipster Northern boss.
The 2016 Bridget has also – pre-pregnancy, of course – attained her goal weight. This may be a controversial point, but I’m tired of the notion that the British ‘Everywoman’ figure has to be overweight to be liked. It’s great to see that someone like the Bridge we all know and love can get through a spinning class – because it means maybe we can do.
Finally, Bridget Jones’s Baby makes up for the alternative plot in Helen Fielding’s utterly deflating novel Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy (to summarise: everyone is dead).
However, while the Bridget Jones film was a unprecedented hit on the box office (and for me), it did – to paraphrase another chronic singleton, Carrie Bradshaw – get me thinking: is it fulfilling another dangerous British fantasy of the distant man?
SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM. IT IS A BLOODY GOOD FILM.
We all want to believe in Bridget’s happy ending, just as much as we want to believe in our own. But I came out of that film wondering whether such happiness did seem believable. In fact, I’d even go as far to say that it sends a bad message to young, single, British women.
Mark Darcy’s character embodies the frustrating stereotype of the ‘strong, silent type’. He is the emotionally-stunted man who – to quote Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason – ‘won’t fight for [her]’ (unless, of course, it’s physical). Ultimately, Bridget ends up with him, the man who has to leave the room before he expresses even a positive emotion, rather than Jack, who anticipates her needs and is upfront about his feelings for her. I couldn’t help thinking that an American audience – who are much less forgiving of the stiff upper lip – would have made a different choice.
Mark will always, it seems, be unavailable. Bridget marries Mark even though nothing has fundamentally changed in their relationship (despite his dramatic gesture of throwing his mobile out the window, which we can only hope was a subtle middle finger up to the controversial new iPhone 7). The short, poignant montage of the loneliness Bridget had faced during their decade-long relationship – sitting alone and stood up in their favourite restaurant, answering the door naked on his birthday to a crowd of lawyers because he hadn’t had the foresight to call ahead – would most probably transition into sleepless nights alone with a screaming baby, followed by solo parents’ evenings (if she managed to win the battle not to send their kid away to Eton).
Lastly, relationships should be about bringing out the best in each other – which is true of Bridget for Mark, as she compensates for his chronic coldness. Meanwhile, Bridget admits early on the film that Mark will always give her ‘verbal diarrhoea’. In the presence of her colleagues, her friends, even Jack, she is dynamic, confident and brilliant. So why does she want to be with someone who, through his own emotional stuntedness, reduces her to a bumbling, inarticulate wreck?
I did love the film. I thought it was heart-warming, and progressive in a lot of ways. But, at the same time, part of me wanted to think that the wonderful, smiley, newly-Botoxed Bridget had outgrown Mark Darcy, who seemed unchanged and lumbered with all the shortcomings which caused them to break up on the previous occasions.
So why does she eschew the handsome American billionaire in favour of the same-old problems?
Maybe Mark Darcy is exactly what the British, mostly-female audience want: a man who, after a punishing, 13 year chase, ultimately deigns to admit that he likes you.