A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

What's right about Bridget Jones's Diary is the cast. What's mildly wrong is that these excellent actors are given very little to say. They do a great deal of staring at each other. We need more of Bridget's comic observations on her own dilemmas, more of her diary. Still, watching these pros create light and funny moments out of fluff is good fun.

Misunderstandings are the stuff of the story, enough to go around for all the characters who absorb their setbacks with appropriately wounded feelings. Renee Zellweger's Bridget, who aspires to life with a charming prince, considers herself a failure. But what a failure. Bridget is the time-honored ditz with brains and compassion. Talking in bursts of candor that doom her cause, she refuses to compromise herself in her quest. She's a social zero who retreats to her room to swill wine, eat junk, and mope about her ineptitude.

It takes a real winner to play a comic loser, and Ms. Zellweger pulls it off perfectly. You laugh with Bridget and suffer for her as she wraps herself in unimaginably awful clothes that play havoc with the extra weight the actress added for the role.

As Bridget vows to drop 20 pounds, and to abandon cigarettes and alcohol, we know she won't be able to do it. Her prince will have to appreciate the substance, not the surface. But, aside from the clothes and the verbal misfires, even the surface is intriguing. Zellweger has a face so expressive it makes you smile just to watch her. May she never, in advancing age, let a plastic surgeon mess with the subtle horizontal lines that crease her temples with good will.

With all the messiness of office romance, Bridget catches the eye of her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), a cad of the first rank who toys with her mercilessly. Grant plays in welcome relief to his usual image of the cute innocent. He seems thoroughly delighted to be playing a rotter.

The loutish boss is tied, by several degrees of connection, to others in the story, especially to Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), a handsome stiff who takes a long time to strip away his stuffy layers. Colin Firth and Hugh Grant are natural foils, and their competition works. It's fitting that Bridget gets to choose her prince from opposing poles. Considering their talents, it would also have been fitting if the writers had thrown them better lines.

Ms. Zellweger is supported nicely by Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent, who play her hapless parents. All of them manage to make the audience break into a sweat at the very thought of the dating game. Whenever Bridget ends up at home, wrapped in a bathrobe and mired in the sloppiness of her despair, we love the sight because we know this woman will triumph. How could she not, given that the one non-negotiable aspect of the social currency here is her real self?

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Universal
Rating : R
Running time : 1h34m

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