(Originally posted 22nd September 2016 - spoilers)
It's probably fair to say I didn't go into this film with the best attitude. The first two of the trilogy, while entertaining, seemed to me to be remnants of a world that we are trying to leave behind. So what does fifteen years of progress look like? It actually looks... very good. Rather than dwelling in an outdated set of ideas, Bridget Jones's Baby feels more like a forward thinking film that is nonetheless held back by the past, which is a much more accurate portrayal of the plight of the modern woman.
The plot set up is that Bridget is now in her early forties and still single. Now, though, this is exacerbated by the fact that all her friends have gone off to have kids and no longer want to play with her and her biological clock is ticking. She's managed to stumble her way up the career ladder to become some sort of line producer on a news show and she's basically pretty comfortable. So far, so realistic, and this is where we start to feel the benefit of not having Richard Curtis on the writing team. Curtis doesn't seem to have ever met real, nuanced, complicated people, and only sees life in archetypes and stock rom-com situations.
In a last ditch attempt to relive her youth, Bridget is encouraged by her new younger friend Miranda (brilliantly played by Sarah Solemani and a shame that the character basically gets jettisoned in the second half to make way for Bridget's story) to get out and have some fun, which culminates in her having a one night stand with Jack. In the tradition of Bridget Jones's love interests, he's ten years older than her but devilishly handsome (although if you ask me he looks more like a well-tanned Chuckle brother).
Unfortunately, this whole character is one of the weakest elements of the story. Patrick Dempsey plays him with just the right amount of charm and empathy and in other circumstances it would work fine; the problem is that here he's going up against the long standing love interest of Mr. Darcy, so there is never any real sense of suspense about who she's going to end up with; the person with a fifteen year history or some guy she barely knows. Of course, if it had been Daniel Cleaver it might have worked but Hugh Grant was not prepared to give us that pleasure, the lovable bastard.
So, to get on with the plot, Bridget finds herself pregnant to one of these two delightful chaps and hilarity ensues as she at first tries to hide from this confusion and then has to confront it head on. The important part of this journey, however, is the bit where it looks like she's lost both of them and she concludes, fuck it, I'll just do it on my own. It's not overplayed, it's not some huge life lesson, she's just a strong independent woman and this is one more thing she might have to tackle in a strong and independent way. This is the growth of Bridget Jones that was missing in the previous films; a realistic sense of a woman who can take the hard knocks and keep going. Even the idea of having a child is done wonderfully subtly. She's not a baby mad spinster down to her last few eggs, it happens by accident and she rolls with it. The decision to keep the baby is similarly underplayed; it's probably her last chance so she's going to take it. I'd like to assume this was deliberate writing of a strong character rather than glossing over an important part of the process so we could get back to doing stupid gags.
The film also handles layers and irony rather better than its predecessors, with Bridget's mother being the prime example of this. The parents are not strongly related to the story, but her mother's change from an old-fashioned sense of family values to actually expressing genuine care is an obvious demonstration of the societal changes that I felt were missing from the original film. On the same note, it should probably go without saying that Emma Thompson's OB/GYN doctor is the best thing in the whole film, both in terms of character and performance.
The film still maintains the comedic and occasionally even slapstick tone of the previous films and this works better some times than others. The best example probably being when Darcy has to carry the in-labour Bridget to the hospital. Picking her up dramatically as the score kicks in only to find that she's a lot heavier than he'd anticipated. This is what Bridget Jones is about; overblown ideas of romance undermined by reality. It's holding up a mirror so we can watch and say, “Oh god, I've done that; how silly that seems in hindsight”. The difference in this instalment is that Bridget and by extension the audience actually learns and grows from these experiences, rather than just constantly falling back to imaginary 'perfect' scenarios.
The film certainly has its flaws. For example, there is a whole subplot that never really works about Bridget being worried about getting fired from her job. Also, I would have preferred a more ambiguous ending because there isn't any real suspense where they're trying to make us think there is. But even though on paper it seems like the ultimate Hollywood happy ending, it gets away with it because I believe the journey that took us there. It all gets wrapped up a little too neatly but I don't feel like that is at the expense of letting the character develop.
Overall then, the same humour and charm of the originals but with a much more healthy and forward thinking outlook.
Listen to our highly entertaining discussion of Bridget Jones here: