While there aren’t that many films I can sit through more than once, topping the exclusive list of movies I’ve watched countless times is Bridget Jones’s Diary – the iconic British romcom turning 20 today (13th April).
Starring Renée Zellweger as Helen Fielding’s globally-adored character, this reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has been my go-to comfort film for years. I may have been just four years old when Bridget made her cinematic debut, but over the past two decades she’s become a timeless icon thanks to Zellweger’s performance, which is both heart-warming and heart-breaking but always hilarious, and the intense relatability of a 30-something single Londoner who struggles with her self-esteem and finds herself in a countless number of cringe-worthy situations.
However, watching this BAFTA-nominated hit in recent years, I’ve come to realise that Bridget isn’t the walking disaster of a woman we’re constantly reminded she is throughout the film. In fact, she’s actually doing pretty well in life – even at the start of the film, when she arrives hungover to her parents’ turkey curry buffet wearing “a carpet” picked out by her mum.
In the excruciating scene which follows, romantic lead Mark Darcy, played by early-noughties turtleneck king Colin Firth, calls Bridget a “verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and dresses like her mother”. Upon accidentally overhearing these cruel remarks, Bridget decides to start the film’s titular diary to detail her journey of self-improvement so she doesn’t “die fat and alone and be found three weeks later half-eaten by wild dogs” and, while we wouldn’t have Bridget Jones’s Diary without her crippling lack of self-confidence, Bridget actually isn’t “fat”, “alone” or a “spinster” at any point in the movie.
Career-wise, Bridget isn’t just surviving but thriving, with her large Borough Market flat above The Globe Tavern pub (which she’d have bought for approximately £190,000 according to Time Out) and her job at a successful publishing company, where she rubs shoulders with the likes of Salman Rushdie and Lord Jeffrey Archer. Yes, she may embarrass herself at the odd Christmas party or stumble through a speech at an important work event but who hasn’t? Then, when she decides to quit and tells sleaze ball Daniel Cleaver she’d rather “have a job wiping Saddam Hussein’s arse” than stay (there go her chances of a decent reference), she walks straight into her first TV presenting job at Sit Up Britain – a GMB-style national news show – where she covers important human rights trials despite her limited current affairs knowledge.
As for her love life, I refuse to believe that anyone with both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant physically fighting over them is romantically challenged. The honourable, wealthy, desperately handsome (although slightly constipated-looking) Mark Darcy and the devilishly charming, witty, floppy-haired (although deceitful) Daniel Cleaver very publicly trash a Greek restaurant whilst competing for Bridget’s affections, and yet Richard Curtis has the GALL to tell me this woman is a “tragic spinster”. I don’t think so.
Whenever Bridget does happen to be single, she’s hanging around with her three supportive friends – Jude (Shirley Henderson), Tom (James Callis) and Shazzer (Sally Phillips) – all of whom are living a very similar life to her and will whisk her away to Paris for the weekend whenever she’s had her heart broken.
Last but certainly not least, let’s address the “fat” of it all. Throughout the film, Bridget updates viewers regarding her weight, revealing that she wants to “lose 20 pounds”, has a “bottom the size of Brazil” and writes in her diary that her nine-stone weight is a “terrifying slide into obesity” – yikes. While in 2021 self-love has become an important topic of conversation, with diet culture coming under fire in recent years and the idea that all sizes are beautiful finally becoming more widely recognised, even by early 2000s standards Bridget wasn’t overweight and the film’s constant claims that she is are not just ridiculous but also irresponsible.
While Bridget eventually recovers her self-confidence by the end of the film after Mark ‘I Like You Very Much Just As You Are’ Darcy dumps the awful Natasha for her, let’s not forget that the romcom queen was actually killing it across the board without a man, even if the movie tries to tell us otherwise.
Check out our definitive ranking of every Bridget Jones’s Diary character to further celebrate the big anniversary.