2016-09-29 / Around Town


A Paternity Suit Designed for Darcy and McDreamy
By Patricia Lacouture

Colin Firth, Renée Zellweger, and Patrick Dempsey in “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” Colin Firth, Renée Zellweger, and Patrick Dempsey in “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” The opening scenes of “Bridget Jones’s Baby” make the singles life of the lead character look like a never-ending circuit of disco.

The romantic comedy opens with a forlorn Bridget (Renée Zellweger) holding a cupcake with one candle, an act in denial of her 43rd birthday. She’s playing “All by Myself,” which may have set the tone for the first installment, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” but here she allows herself only a fleeting moment of self-pity before she switches to “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The merry musical romp begins with Bridget jumping on her bed like a playful child.

She isn’t too upset about the birthday until she arrives at work, where her colleagues bring out a ginormous cake with so many candles that they (along with added sparklers) suggest that the building’s sprinkler system and fire alarm may go off. They don’t. Bridget, who in this film has become less critical of her figure, returns to her sorrowful mode over not having a mate.

Work buddy Miranda (Sarah Solemani) tells a sad Bridget that all she needs to cheer her up is what the Brits call a shag. (Other words are used, heavily, but I shall refrain from mentioning them all). Bridget has been working out at a gym where the exercise coach gets the women pumped up with disco-style music. Miranda coaxes Bridget to go with her to a music festival where there’s an equally athletic disco scene. Not satisfied that enough dancing has transpired, the filmmakers have Bridget acting as godmother at a christening that seems sedate, but wait: Now we have kiddie disco.

Bridget straggles behind Miranda at the music festival, handicapped with high heels – you know what happens with skinny high heels on lawns and even more so in mud. She gets stuck in the mud and falls flat on her face. A handsome man named Jack (Patrick Dempsey) lifts her up.

Later, a drunk Bridget stumbles into a dark tent, thinking it’s the one she shares with Miranda. It’s no surprise, however, that it is occupied by the handsome stranger who pulled Bridget out of the mud. They do that thing Miranda has prescribed, and Bridget, as dotty as ever, doesn’t take a second to wonder if her eco-friendly condom is past its expiration date.

It’s easy to make a mistake once, but Bridget showed a propensity for making bad choices in both previous flicks. At the aforementioned christening, the godfather is none other than her ex, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). They tumble into bed for a night of heavy frolicking, using the same out-of-date condoms.

Hence, the film’s title, “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” proves especially relevant as she has no idea which man fathered the child. It is her baby, and a series of madcap mishaps leads Bridget to believe that she will have to raise the little one all by herself.

Zellweger isn’t especially fabulous here. With this third rendition of Bridget Jones, she is more poised and more confident. She fumbles and bumbles, but not as much. She replaces tentative glances with a direct gaze. She’s cute with her crinkly smile, puckered lips and klutzy stride.

Yet – while it’s fine for her character to possess imperfections, for a performer who is supposed to carry a film, it’s not as forgivable. She was so much more compelling in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” opposite Tom Cruise. She showed a propensity for drama in “Cold Mountain” (2003), an epic war drama directed by Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient,” 1996). And she projected every emotion an actress needs in her arsenal – wistfulness, ambition, sexy moves and the righteous anger of a woman tricked and scorned – in “Chicago” (2002). Her Roxie Hart could break a heart, and could she dance!

The real acting kudos go to Firth, who is gentler – I would even say more tender – than we’ve seen him in a multitude of roles. His filmography is truly inclusive, including historical drama (“The King’s Speech,” 2010); the quietly tortured perfectionistic Vermeer in “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (2003); the menacing Lord Henry Wotton in “Dorian Gray” (2009); and a classic with a comic twist via “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). Here, he’s almost as clumsy with being a contender for Bridget’s affection as Bridget is with almost everything.

Darcy offers iced tea. Jack arrives seconds later with a dark green health drink. No caffeine for Mommy, says Jack. Darcy shrugs and pauses in discomfort. Ah, but the way he looks at Bridget is anything but uncomfortable. He caresses her with his eyes. It’s not a lustful gaze. It is an affectionate, gentle expression. He may not be as smooth as Jack, but he’s clearly a man in love and determined to not let the woman slip away a second time.

His short-lived first marriage has, perhaps, tempered Darcy’s eagerness to please and to prove himself sexy. Jane Austen’s Darcy, in the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1995), became an instant heartthrob for literary-minded women, due to a scene involving a wet shirt. Now, sadly, wet shirts do nothing. Bare chests (and more) make cash registers sing, and, in this case, characters use language that belongs to guttersnipes rather than supposedly educated professionals.

I hope Bridget and her friends clean up their language before the little tot arrives.

Far be it for this critic to stop women from feasting their eyes on Colin Firth, but it’s not a very cohesive – or even tolerably good – movie.

Patricia Lacouture teaches film studies at Salve Regina University. She completed her graduate studies in film at Boston University.

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