Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

Take Her, She's Yours!
or
Till Divorce Do Us Part
. "Bridget Jones's Diary"

The quality that Renee Zellwegger has that is so special is the ability to make us live her moments. Sure, every good actor creates sympathy of one kind or another for the character they're playing, but Zellwegger's special gift is to go beyond mere sympathy. You experience through her. She's real. You know her.

Problem is, this is a trap for a director to take her through things that are just too far out, too whacko, too over-the-top in terms of human conduct. As delightful as she is as Bridget Jones, poor Renee goes through moments that are less well imagined and written than they might have been. There's such a thing as plausibility, y'know.

That said, we immediately identify with this less than ideal personality who is a secretary in a publishing house under Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), about as attractive a boss (and leading man) as any vulnerable young lady might have. He is his trusty debonair self as he falls for Jones when he starts noticing her for the first time. She had to send him some racy email and dress a bit tartish to pull off gaining his attention, but Jones does it, and pretty soon he's taking her to parties and, eventually, to a weekend retreat.

This, after Bridget's mum (Gemma Jones) tries to fix her up with someone a bit more on the straight-laced, buttoned-up side, the handsome lawyer, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). But this pairing goes about as awkwardly as Jones can make it with clownish stumbles and embarassing jokes. Still, lawyer Darcy lingers in the background, all the while sporting the beautiful and designing Natasha (Embeth Davidtz) on his arm. Ah, and when he realizes that Jones is being squired about town and on the road by none other than Cleaver, his ex-roomate who didn't treat him very gentlemanly, (or was it the other way around?), he gets downright interested in the fair lady and suddenly doesn't know where his true interests lie.

Is it too late? Well, as this movie demonstrates, nothing is ever too late. And we revolve with Jones around and around as this becomes a love triangle set in comedic exaggeration. There's no getting around loving Zellwegger as she goes through love, disappointment, victory, success, failure, 2nd chances, recoveries, etc. And the inimitable Mr. Grant, playing so well his trademark effete roue once more. And that's enough to recommend the film as a good enough evening's entertainment.

It's just we who carp about balance and realism that might have a bit of a problem with it.

Zellwegger, that all-American girl, sports the accent of a Brit as she takes on the character created in Merry Ol'. Wisely, it's not a too heavy cockney, and she starts off just fine. She manages to fit her speech patterns into the general mode well enough to make us not think about her origins, except once in a while it jumps out at you as it gets more pronounced than its been. But its her character and portrayal that's key here. Zellwegger uses a limitless reserve of humility and vulnerability to capture hearts. She's stunningly sympathetic.

Colin Firth does a good job in creating the polar opposite of Hugh Grant, in demeanor, attitude and level of propriety, though it's bending credibility to expect he'd ever lose his stiffness enough for such an instinctive romantic as Bridget. The repelling forces seem overpowering.

The ever-good Jim Broadbent ("Topsy-Turvy", 1999; "Smilla's Sense of Snow", 1997) assays the role of Jones' dad, as he goes through the crisis of having his wife leave him for another man in a secondary plot line. And, back to Grant for a moment, this guy's as solid as a predecessor Grant: Cary, who also sported an insouciant comedic touch with more than a little self-deprecation its foundation. If anyone were looking for a modern day Cary Grant, look no further.

Estimated cost: $26,000,000. Projected U.S. Boxoffice: $70,000,000.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
"Ms. Zellwegger's potrayal cannot be matched by any actress. Renee should have won the Oscar, why she didn't win it, is beyond me."
                            ~~ Henry G.



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