It feels strange to be doing this review process the odd way around… To be reading a book that is based on a film that I love – and have been watching ritualistically for years (alternating with Love Actually) every time I feel a little down and need a pick-me-up.
I must admit, I braced myself to be disappointed. I didn’t think that Helen Fielding’s 1996 book, no matter how brilliantly funny, could possibly meet my expectations. Renee Zellwegger’s paunchy, pouty Bridget Jones face was just too firmly engrained in my mind.
So it was with a sigh of relief that I read the first page, and laughed out loud. Already it was clear: here is the story that I love, here are the characters, just in the bound-paper form!
From Bridget’s lamentations about “emotional fuckwits” and “smug marrieds”, to her mother’s insistence that the Japanese are a “very cruel race” – it was all there, and all so familiar.
Sure, the film did take make some small, creative tweaks: Mark Darcy’s reindeer jumper, for example, originated in the book as a “v-neck, diamond-patterned in shades of yellow and blue”; Bridget is not forced to dress like a carpet at Una Alconbury’s Turkey Curry Buffet; and Bridget’s Mum’s foray into television is not on the home-shopping network.
In a larger and more significant sense, Bridget’s relationships are slightly different in the book. For one, she has much more time to be duped by Daniel’s “emotional fuckwittage.”
Tin the book they had a first date debacle, where she walked out and left him high and dry; their much-famed mini-break was achieved after much complaining on Bridget’s behalf; and they spent many boring Sundays watching cricket, and even meeting some of Daniel’s friends, before it all ended when she found the other woman sprawled naked on a sun lounger on the rooftop terrace.
The parallels with Pride and Prejudice are also much more apparent in the book. For starters, Bridget makes this very obvious comparison:
“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting ‘Cathy’ and banging your head against a tree.”
The film left out an entire saga about Bridget’s Mum getting caught up in a timeshare apartment swindle, which led Mark Darcy to rush over to Portugal and stage a Lydia and Wickham-style save the day. But in its place, the film introduced Mark’s back-handedly complimentary speech (which is reminiscent of Mr Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth) and the Wickham-like confusion over whose fiancée/ wife slept with who. (Although Daniel’s betrayal did originate in the book, Bridget only learns of it from Mark on page 236).
Some sections of the book are played out perfectly in the film. The blue soup, for example, was almost word-for-word Fielding. No wonder then that Bridget Jones’s Diary turned into such a hilarious film, with many of its funniest lines just waiting to be lifted from the page.
Fielding brilliantly gave Bridget the habit of leaving out the A’s and I’s – which makes it feel more authentically like you are really reading her diary, which was at times only shoddily half-written as she was running out the door, or when drunk. Watching the film back, it’s obvious now that the filmmakers carefully replicated this feature in Zellwegger’s narration.
In comparison to the book, Zellwegger’s Bridget does come across a little more lovable. She is softer, and perhaps fluffier around the edges than Fielding’s Bridget, who can at times be very bitter and cynical.
On the whole, though, the film is very faithful. And, despite how biased I may seem, I would even go so far to say that any changes in the film only served to enhance the original.
Hear me out!
First of all, how perfect was the decision to cast both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant when BOTH are referred to by name by Bridget in the book?!
Secondly, it is my firm belief that a good adaptation should be respectful of the original, but not be a slave to it. Through the wonders of cinema, the film Bridget Jones’s Diary was able to introduce some new and exciting elements, which took the author’s perceived intentions and gave them a little pizzazz!
These new additions, which I see as improvements to the original, include:
- Bridget’s drunk, mimed rendition of ‘All by myself’ in her pyjamas.
- The decision to make Tom the 80’s pop icon who “sang that song”.
- The montage of Bridget flouncing around the office in her succession of mi-skirts and see-through tops.
- Reciting poetry with Daniel in the rowboats.
- The soundtrack – in particular ‘R.E.S.P.E.CT’ when she storms out of the office.
- Mark’s fight with Daniel, again with the help of the song ‘It’s raining men’.
- The pants-less kissing of Mark in the snow, and the will-they-wont-they drama right at the end.
- And last, but not least, Bridget’s “scary stomach holding-in pants”.
How does the film rate? 5/5
How does the film rate as an adaptation? 5/5
Total score: 10/10
Book or Big Screen? Big Screen