Published Apr 01, 2001"Bridget Jones's Diary" basically follows the same formula that made fellow Working Title productions "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill" such successes. It too features a lovelorn but likeable protagonist trying to navigate their way through complicated romantic entanglements while surrounded by an endearingly wacky cast of characters all spewing clever dialogue written by Richard Curtis. This time though, the script is co-written by Helen Fielding, based on her phenomenally successful novel of the same name, and the bumbling, stuttering hero is not played by Hugh Grant.
In a controversial casting move, skinny Texan actress Renee Zellweger was hired to play the very British, slightly pudgy title character in this story which follows Bridget through her thirty-second year during which she starts keeping a diary in an effort to help gain control over her disastrous personal and professional life. Throughout the film, she chronicles her own endless series of social gaffs, work mishaps, and romantic failures (including a fling with her sleazy boss, Hugh Grant, and a series of unpleasant encounters with childhood friend Mark Darcy, Colin Firth), while obsessively keeping track of the calories, alcohol, and cigarettes that she consumes.
The bulked-up Zellweger looks appropriately doughy for the role and goes all the way in playing Bridget's continuous social humiliations to their utmost comedic value. Her British accent does come across as a little careful and studied, but her performance is so genuine and full that it's easy to overlook its minor flaws. Hugh Grant is very fun to watch playing against type as the rakishly charming Daniel Cleaver and Colin Firth gives a great performance as the brooding Mark Darcy in a very self-referential bit of casting (the character he plays here is compared in the book to the character Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" which he played in the BBC mini-series).
The supporting cast is equally excellent, with established actors Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent playing Bridget's maritally troubled parents, and Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson, and James Callis playing Bridget's closest friends who offer support, endearing insults and bad advice. In fact, these supporting characters (especially the friends) are so good that they feel disappointingly underused in the film. The other minor disappointment is that the movie seems a little too geared towards setting up and reaching the eventual happy ending that it doesn't dwell on Bridget's experience of being single in a world of couples as much as it could. This is touched upon, but mostly left alone in favour of broader physical embarrassments and the romantic story lines. Despite these things, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is a fun and clever film with enough solid writing and performances to place it near the top of the romantic comedy pile.