Perhaps to placate those turned off by Helen Fielding's divisive bestseller, Bridget Jones's Diary has been advertised as a companion piece to Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill, with which it shares one star, two producers, a great screenwriter, a London setting, and little else. Directed by first-timer Sharon Maguire and co-written by Fielding, Andrew Davies, and Notting Hill/Four Weddings vet Richard Curtis, it gives the impression of two many cooks and not enough stirring. A broad comedy shot with sitcom flatness one moment, it lapses into maudlin drama with grotesque humor the next, its herky-jerky rhythms never allowing the film to find its feet. If Curtis' solo-penned romantic comedies presented smoothly blended cocktails of humor, pathos, and memorable characters, this feels like a drunken attempt at replication by pouring all the ingredients into the mix and hoping for the best. As Jones, a thirtyish book publicist who believes herself to drink, eat, and smoke too much ever to catch the man of her dreams, Renée Zellweger remains above the problems. She gets the accent right, if at times overemphatically, but more importantly captures her character's hobbling insecurity without making her seem like a neurotic loon. As the cad she mistakes for Mr. Right, Hugh Grant proves similarly memorable, but the material—contrived, movie-length misunderstandings, protracted gags, and unearned sentimentality—eludes the best efforts of both actors, and their three-dimensional work seems noticeably out of place in the cartoon world around them. Bridget Jones's Diary has trouble getting its head straight in other aspects, as well, dedicating about three minutes to the notion that Zellweger would be happier simply being herself and the rest of the film to making sure she gets her man, later rather than sooner.
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