It is a truth universally acknowledged, that ladies of a certain age and demographic hold certain romantic comedies dear to their heart, like a longtime friend or a reliable martini. For 15 years now, Bridget Jones’ Diary has filled that role for many women (and men). And now, there’s the much anticipated third film, Bridget Jones's Baby, a god-send for anyone who loves Bridget but can’t sit through the “enormous pants” gag again without stabbing themselves in the face. For everyone else, the trailer promises to show us Renee Zellweger coming up with new ways to faceplant in the mud.
The film opens with our beloved and klutzy singleton celebrating her 43rd birthday – all by herself, of course. Her friends are all smugly married with children. But there's a silver lining – she's down to her “ideal weight” and has a successful job as producer of a national news program. A resolution to lead a more hedonistic lifestyle leads to a music festival where she hooks up with an eligible mathematician/tech billionaire going by highly improbable name of Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey). It’s funny because he’s a numbers guy? Oh forget it, it's still a better name than McDreamy.
But it wouldn't be a Bridget Jones or Patrick Dempsey plotline without a love triangle. Within a week she has a second encounter, this time with the familiar figure of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). From there you can probably work out the rest of the story by looking at the movie poster. Bridget finds out she’s pregnant, no-one knows who the father is, cue nine months of warm hearted drama and humour towards an enjoyably farcical birth. The only thing that’s missing is Hugh Grant, but his foppish cad Daniel Cleaver does get a fitting on-screen memorial. Is it a worry that the cult of the nostalgic remake is generating tropes on how to deal with non-returning characters?
The film is a return, not just to Bridget Jones, but to the industry for Zellweger and director Sharon Maguire. Much like the central character they are products of the 1990s who shot to prominence in the early 2000s and have largely stayed out of the limelight since. Just as the success of the original was built around their relatable familiarity with life as a thirtysomething single, there’s a knowingness to how this film references the travails of an older Bridget and her "geriatric pregnancy".
Some of the best moments come from the almost exclusively female, supporting cast. Sarah Solemani in particular is excellent as Miranda, a wise-cracking and flirty news presenter. Her exchanges with Zellweger are a particular highlight, squeezing in at least four genocide and Hitler related jokes over the course of the film. Emma Thompson and her eyebrows also provide some great moments as Bridget’s gynecologist. Ed Sheeran’s extended and extremely sporting cameo deserves an honourable mention. Fun fact: he was 10 when the original film came out.
Indeed, Bridget Jones is feeling her age and it shows, both in the faces of the stars and the laboured “old person jokes” about new technology, hipsters and music – already so past it that they date the film by four years. (Really, Gangnam Style?) But that’s not the point. This film is a funny, enjoyable and ultimately nostalgic check in with our big drinking, fad dieting BFF from the late 90s.