Pride, Prejudice and Post-Modernity or, ‘This isn’t THAT bad’

by TheLitCritGuy


Date: 19/03/2012

Weight: 11 stone

Cigarettes: None – Thank goodness

Alcohol Units: Many dinner parties worth

Day started great. Met the friends and over coffee we had a great time catching up. Turns out some of the successful marketing types think the blog will be more successful if updates are more frequent – and if not achieved will quickly become the laughing-stock of the whole interweb.  To that end, have decided to implement bi-weekly updates. Obviously this all marks super exciting upward momentum of site and will soon become massive internet sensation on a level with cats who can’t spell and the small child who went to the dentist. Am much nicer than either of them so awaiting the ad-revenue checks with bated breath.

First up of the bi-weekly updates is a smash hit from the mid-90’s. Was originally a series of newspaper columns for one of the fancy broadsheets so obviosly has much london journo cred.  Settled in for the evning with copy of the book, expecting great things.

OK? Have I run that joke out yet? No? I don’t care. There is no way I’m writing this week’s entire blog in the stilted and annoying prose style that Helen Fielding adopted for Bridget Jone’s Diary which was turned into a fairly successful film of the same name in 2001. As per usual I won’t spend huge amounts of time on discussing the plot, because it’s one of the weaker elements of the book, and frankly, within the opening ten pages you should be able to fill in the plot yourself.

But…wait for it…this isn’t that bad.

Now, before you all run screaming for the hills let me explain. The cast is all very good, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant spark nicely off each other; though it has to be said playing an emotionally repressed Englishman and a slimy sleaze respectively isn’t exactly a stretch for either of them in turns of their acting talent. Thinking about it, the best actor in the cast is the chronically underrated Jim Broadbent who takes the role of Bridget’s father, a part that could easily slip into stereotype and cheap gags, and injects it with real pathos.

As with the plot the rest of the characterisation isn’t that great, not really doing anything special. Bridget’s London friends all fulfill their assigned stereotypes – Gay, strong women, vulnerable woman etc etc. Sadly the same is true of Bridget’s family, (Broadbent apart) as they all indulgence in the Home Counties mugging game.

And yet, I can’t hate this as a film. Yes, it’s schmaltzy. Yes it’s backed by Richard Curtis and so in places the sentiment threatens to drown you like a tsunami of syrup but this is quite a charming film mainly thanks to Renée Zellweger who brings Bridget to life. Yes, it’s clichéd but that is why it is so easy to connect with. English people know these clichés and we all have that odd part of our brain that responds well to seeing our own foibles on-screen.

How this compares to the text is an interesting question as the book’s author was a large part of the adaptive process, and I must say as an adaptation this does work really well. The sub-plots are tidied quite nicely, though Bridget’s friends do suffer as they are given less space to be properly fleshed out. The casting, well, it’s perfect. The film has become so much part of the cultural milieu it is nigh on impossible for me to try to imagine anyone else into the roles.

I do have a couple of things that I dislike. From what I’ve read the columns were originally started as a satire of a certain kind of London girl. The single, moderately successful thirty-something who was looking for Mr Right. As with all satire that actually does what it does quite well, eventually it became so similar to what it was there to satirize it became identical. The change in medium left the satire by the roadside a little. The only real nod to this was Mark Darcy being played by the same actor who played Mr. Darcy! This, the casting choice equivalent of screaming at the audience as loud as you can, ‘GET IT!? LOOK WHAT WE DID!! WE’RE SOOOO SMART! YOU KNOW PRETTY COLIN FIRTH, WE CAN BE META!!

No, no you aren’t. Playing Bridget as not a satire and then casting Mr Darcy as Mark Darcy reduces the inter-texuality of the original to a just a step above a really dumb pop culture reference. So, in what could have been just a subtle nod to the Austen references that Bridget Jones’s Diary is based on, the film broadens the humour at the cost of the sources materials intellectual heft – and, without being too disparaging I think I can safely say that the books original intellectual power wasn’t huge…

Furthermore, there is a fairly large part of my mind that gets a little uncomfortable with this film. It might be just me, it really might be but as a feminist the idea of a film based almost exclusively around the idea of a women in her mid thirties and her desperate desire to be with the ideal man feels a little demeaning for the 21st century. And yes, in the book this charge is easier to get past but I guess the film isn’t meant to be taken seriously but still…I can’t escape the nagging feeling that laughing at a women for being emotional and falling over and embarrassing herself socially is just a bit…not OK…

As I said though, it is nigh on impossible to dislike this film. Its sort of like an endearing puppy that comes round your house and throws up in your shoes without you knowing. Yes, it is annoying in places but it you can’t kick it too hard, because if you do you’re girlfriend will never talk to you again.

So to sum up, is it a good adaptation? Well, yes.

It is good? No. Not at all. And anyone who says other wise is provably wrong.

But in terms of the bad out there in adaptation world, this is actually pretty good. If you come to it forgetting any desire for high art or great epoch defining romance there is much to enjoy here, and much that works. The jokes are basic but they get a laugh, the characters are broad and unthreatening but kind of loveable and the plot is cheesy and predictable but in the reassuring way that countless rom-coms have achieved. Will I watch it again? Maybe not, but if ever you feel the need for a day in front of the TV and this comes on, well, you could do a lot worse.

Hardly a ringing endorsement, but that’s such my opinion. Agree or disagree let me know your thoughts in the comment section.