Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason



UK (UK-US-Ire-Fr) 2004 : Beeban KIDRON : 105 mins

When authors and critics talk of the sublime, they see not how nearly it borders on the
ridiculous. The sublime of the critics, like some parts of Edmund Burke’s Sublime and
Beautiful, is like a windmill just visible in a fog, which imagination might distort into
a flying mountain, or an archangel, or a flock of wild geese.
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (final footnote)

What has this quote to do with Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason? Sweet FA, except that during the long stretches of tedium that punctuate this dire cash-in sequel the mind drifts, the title shifts, and we find ourselves imagining an alternate universe where Charlie Kaufman was hired to adapt Helen Fielding’s book, misheard the instruction, took another of his dizzying left-field turns and handed in Bridget Jones – The Age of Reason in which Renee Zellweger’s frumpy bachelorette was transported back in time to the Enlightenment and wound up bedding the eminently eligible Paine. Actually, that quotation isn’t entirely unapposite as it does contain the word “ridiculous.” Other words that come to mind while watching Edge of Reason: embarrassing, lifeless, mirthless, tiresome, uninspired, non-event, lobotomised, smug.

What on earth went wrong? Bridget Jones’s Diary from 2001 was pretty good as romantic comedies go – Zellweger not only deserved her Oscar nod for her skilful comic performance, she arguably had more right to claim the prize than any of her fellow nominees. This time she’s stuck with an inert, sub-sitcommish script credited to four separate scriptwriters (BJD‘s Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis joined by Adam Brooks) and whose dialogue is littered with the gratingly fakey vocabulary familiar from previous excursions into the caricature-populated fantasy kingdom that is Curtis-land – “shag”, “snog”, “loo”, “twit”, etc.

Kidron brings the resulting mess to the screen with a bare minimum of expertise – she certainly doesn’t show much in the way of comic flair, and gets completely lost on those unfortunate occasions when the screenplay calls for slapstick (there’s a skiing mishap that one sincerely hopes is forever shielded from Michael Crawford’s gaze.) When in doubt, she slathers the soundtrack with muzak or reaches for some thuddingly appropriate MOR pop cut from the likes of Joss Stone: Edge of Reason often feels like a bad soundtrack in search of a movie.

The episodic, thin story takes up where BJD left off: our heroine has rejected the smarmy charms of Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and gone off into the sunset with her nicey-nicey beloved Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). But after a few weeks Bridget starts to wonder whether she’s cut out for a long-term relationship, and suspects that the dishy Darcy may be carrying on with shapely colleague Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett). Laborious low-farce shenanigans dutifully ensue, including one jaw-droppingly tasteless sequence in which Bridget is banged up in a Thai women’s prison.

High spots are unforgiveably few and far between, though Grant somehow manages to emerge with his dignity intact and there’s an amusing five-second cameo from TV newsreader Jeremy Paxman. But that’s about it – talented performers like Neil Pearson, Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent are woefully underused, while poor Shirley Henderson proves once again that she’s become something of a walking bad-script magnet. And the two central lovebirds very rapidly outstay their welcome – Bridget’s relentless whingeing soon fritters away any residual goodwill from the first film, and one hopes for the sake of Zellweger’s career that Fielding resists the temptation to pen a third Jones novel. “There’s nothing funny in this at all!” someone petulantly yelps at one stage, showing a piercing insight into the whole sorry affair of which Tom Paine would surely be proud.

25th October, 2004
[seen 7th October : Odeon, Nuneaton : press show – CinemaDays event]

by Neil Young