Thursday 27 October 2016

Delayed delivery: "Bridget Jones's Baby"

I bailed on this franchise a month or so before those planes struck the Twin Towers, so I'll keep this relatively brief. I can only surmise that the huge popular success of Bridget Jones's Baby, and its generous critical reception, has something to do with a residual fondness for that stable Working Title world full of nice, white, heteronormative types whose aim in life is to land well-paying jobs in the media before settling down with someone of a similar shade. (Ladies and gentlemen, here is the one sector of the "liberal elite" that doesn't find itself demonised in 2016.) As the title flags, the aspiration third time around extends to procreation of a sort. The central question here is whether Bridget can see herself bringing new life into the world with one of two suitors: a pearly toothed dotcom billionaire (Patrick Dempsey, a touch cutprice for the role), whom Bridget meets while glamping at a music festival headlined by Ed Sheeran and a David Dickinson lookalike (they couldn't even get Dickinson); and Colin Firth's Mark Darcy, the human-rights lawyer who's grown only more constipated with age, such that he now resembles a distant relative of Charlie Higson's Ralph in those bucolic Fast Show sketches. (Dude's so uptight it's a miracle he's capable of ejaculating anything other than steam; our gal's obsession with this tombstone-straight dullard is a mystery another fifty Bridget Jones movies couldn't explain.)

As for Bridget herself, she continues to be rubbish at everything - dithery in love, terrible at her job, barely able to stand upright at the best of times; in her now-digitised diary, extracts of which are flashed up on screen at regular intervals, she's cretinously prone to substituting the number zero for the letter o, which left me even more worried for the child - making this one of the few romantic comedy franchises to be aspirational about everything but its heroine, and yet we're still meant to be nice around her, I think, and cheer her accidental successes. (Is this that feminism everybody's talking about nowadays?) Somewhere deep down in the pallid DNA of this latest entry, I could detect stirrings of a regional variant of Trainspotting's coruscating "It's Shite Being Scottish" monologue - an entire film cursing the crapness of being English (the awful music and awkward dancing; the inherited sexual cringing; the lousily limited choices in work and love), but all of the above elements have been reframed as essential parts of a raucous girlie-night-out celebration: what Bridget Jones's Baby has to say for itself, ultimately, is that It's Great Being Shite and English.

Director Sharon Maguire chops up an already patchwork script, multiply rewritten over several years (hence, presumably, Dickinson), and flies its "highlights" into the audience's gaping maws like a mother playing aeroplane. Not one but three Sheeran songs! Jokes about - or, at least, references to - The X Factor and hashtags! Some random men getting their bums out! C'mon, you know you like this! I bet you even like the scene at the "London Media Show" where Bridget mangles the polysyllabic name of the one non-Caucasian performer (the terrific stand-up Nick Mohammed, who deserves better than this) to have been granted a speaking part, don't you? Don't you? Look: "Gangnam Style"! We are presumably hellbent as a society on getting to experience Bridget Jones's Hot Flush and then Bridget Jones at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I wouldn't doubt for a second there would be an audience for those films, but that audience should be very careful what they wish for: once Madame May finally gets round to invoking Article 50, every British movie will be bound by law - good old English law, drawn up by sexy English lawmen like Mark "The Spark" Darcy - to look and sound exactly like this.

Bridget Jones's Baby is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

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