March 3, 2013

The wilderness years are over: How ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ compares from book to film

It’s the Sex and the City sequel effect. Step one: make a brilliantly funny movie that resonates with masses of women the world over. Step two: in the inevitable sequel, make everything bigger and better.

Well, at least better is the intention.

From the moment that Renee Zellwegger reappeared on our cinema screens as Bridget Jones – plunging from a plane and landing face first in a pigsty – it was obvious that the filmmakers were upping the ante.

In Helen Fielding’s 1999 book version, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the equivalent scene saw Bridget partake in a horse-riding misadventure. A skydiving news report did feature in the book, but Bridget was not required to do the jumping, or to release her own parachute.

In my last published review, of the original Bridget Jones’s Diary and its film adaptation, I gushed at how faithful the filmmakers were to the original story. Every change was for the story’s cinematic benefit, and all the most important elements remained in tact.

The same cannot be said for The Edge of Reason.

The most obvious deviation is with the Rebecca storyline. In the book, Rebecca is the ‘jellyfish’ character who makes Bridget’s life miserable, and who determinedly and ruthlessly pursues a relationship with Mark. In the film, the ‘jellyfish’ is a new and only briefly mentioned character named Jeannie Osbourne, while Rebecca is a sweet colleague of Mark’s who, it turns out, actually has a crush on Bridget.

In the film, by making the competition with Rebecca imagined, and by rendering the threat of losing Mark to nil, the Bridget had more opportunity to dither her way into embarrassing (and funny) situations. It also lightened up the story and paved the way for an on-screen lesbian kiss.

Reading The Edge of Reason, I was surprised to discover some familiar lines and anecdotes that featured in the first movie. The “ghastly, huge scary pants”, for example, (which I mentioned in my last review were not present in book one) were actually borrowed from book two. The boiled egg peeler that you see Bridget’s Mum demonstrating in the shopping mall in film one also originated in book two.

Several of the story lines from The Edge of Reason were slightly altered or omitted for the film sequel:

  • In the book, Jude marries Vile Richard. In the film, the wedding is for Bridget’s parents to renew their vows.
  • In the book, Pam and Una take a trip to Africa and bring back with them a tribesman named Wellington.
  • Mark and Bridget have a bust-up in the book when Bridget walks into his bedroom to discover a naked boy holding a rabbit on the bed.
  • There is no pregnancy scare in the book, nor any argument about whether Mark and Bridget’s future children would be sent to boarding school.
  • Bridget goes to Rome and records a hilarious interview with the real Colin Firth, in which she dwells far too much on his wet shirt in Pride and Prejudice.
  • ‘Gary the Builder’ cuts a hole in Bridget’s apartment wall and sends her a death threat in the mail.
  • Magda – Bridget’s married friend – had a larger role to play in the book. In the film, she is downgraded to only two shot appearances and is introduced as the wife of one of Mark’s colleagues.
  • Daniel only makes a brief appearance in the book, and his career has not transitioned to television.
  • The ‘Smooth Guide’ television program did not have its origins in the book and Bridget’s tragic trip to Thailand did not originate as a work trip, but as a holiday with Shazza.
  • Although (alike the first film adaptation) Mark and Daniel do not have the occasion to brawl in the streets, in The Edge of Reason Mark does get the chance to give Daniel a single punch o the nose.

In my review of Bridget Jones’s Diary, I noted that the film left out an entire saga about Bridget’s Mum getting caught up in a timeshare apartment swindle. By leaving out this element, the film was missing a crucial element of its literary parallel with Pride and Prejudice.

Happily, the film adaptation of The Edge of Reason allows this to be rectified.

The storyline about Bridget’s imprisonment in a Thai prison, and Mark’s heroic attempts to free her, allowed him to pull off the Lydia and Wickham-style save the day that was missing from the first film.

Just as it can be so often generalized that the book is always better than the film, it is so often believed that sequels rarely reach the heights of the original.

In this case, the generalization is correct. The film and the book versions of The Edge of Reason were ever so slightly inferior to their original counterparts – but they were still a hell of a lot of fun!

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 3.5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 4/5

Total score: 7.5/10

Book or Big Screen? Big Screen


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  2. Maybe it was more screen time for Colin Firth. Maybe it was the wonderful "fight" scene between he and Hugh Grant, but I enjoyed this movie more than the first. Also, it was more Bridget, less of her friends. If you're looking for the next literary venture in a movie, this ain't it! But if you want to laugh, and have a fabulous, feel-good movie, this is it!

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