Director: Sharon Maguire
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth
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Bridget Jones’s Diary is the film of the book of the newspaper column – a romantic comedy, documenting a year in the life of a single, thirty something woman in London, played by Renée Zellweger.
It’s the beginning of the New Year for Bridget Jones, who works at a London publishing house as a marketing assistant. Determined to improve her life by losing weight, cutting down on cigarettes and alcohol and finding Mr Right, Bridget begins a diary to record her uncensored thoughts.
She starts by making a list of 33 resolutions (of which, in the end, she manages to keep only one). Bridget has two main fixations: to create the right image for herself, and to find a responsible man who will be truly committed to her, instead of just using her and leaving.
Her affections are torn between her boss, the dangerous, exciting and attractive Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and the haughty, mysterious human-rights barrister, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). The love triangle that follows draws loose parallels with Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (together with its sequel The Edge of Reason) was written by Helen Fielding, and has sold over 10 million copies in 30 countries. It was an overwhelming and instant success, capturing the plight of the contemporary woman in a remarkably familiar and endearing light.
Many people saw flashes of themselves as they followed the delightfully dysfunctional Bridget through ‘performance anxiety’ at work, ever-failing diets and her insatiable longing for love. I smiled at the one-liners, laughed at the subtle and not-so-subtle comedy and nodded in sympathy with Bridget’s all-too-familiar plight - and I’m male. Imagine the female reaction!
It was, perhaps, encouraging to find that you can be a domestic disaster, a social embarrassment, a professional no-hoper and a little overweight, and still have two handsome hunks fighting over you... But beneath the humorous surface of the film lie glimpses of real sadness. This movie successfully combines comedy and truth, but the humour masks the real emotion.
Laughter can often be an antidote to the things that make us sad. The film communicates reality, however fictional. Whether we are single or married, we can relate, to some extent, with Bridget’s frustrations. They prompt an examination of our own lives and relationships. It’s a movie that makes us realise that what - or who - is on the inside is far more important than having the perfect body, the perfect career or saying all the right things at the right time.
It is completely natural that we - both women and men - want to fall in love and get married. After all, Bridget is living out the desire that God has planted in most people to find a life’s partner. It was God (not a grumpy Adam) who declared, “It is not right for the man to be alone.” Desire for companionship is quite a legitimate need, and God recognises this.
Bridget’s desire to find a life partner who loves her is a virtue, not a flaw. It is the way she goes about it - leaving herself sexually open for exploitation - that is the problem.
The director of the movie, Sharon Maguire, suggests that ‘primarily, this film is about loneliness, dressed up as a comic anecdote.’ The theme is established from the very start, as Bridget is alone in her flat, drinking, depressed, wearing her penguin-patterned pyjamas, and listening to Jamie O’Neal’s song ‘All by Myself’. The film opens expressing this fear...
Film Clip 1
All by myself
Intense loneliness is at the root of all of Bridget’s actions.
It’s the end of a winter’s evening. Bridget Jones is alone in her flat, wearing her penguin-patterned pyjamas. A fire is struggling to stay alight in the hearth, and Frasier is coming to an end on the TV. She has a glass of red wine in one hand, a cigarette and magazine in the other. Jamie O’Neal’s song ’All by Myself’ blasts from her stereo. Her magazine doubles as an air-guitar. She checks her answer-phone: "You have no new messages", announces the electronic voice. She downs her wine, as the music soars:
"When I was young, I never needed any one
And making love was just for fun...
Those days are gone.
All by myself. Don’t wanna be all by myself, anymore."
The drums crash in, Bridget smashes a pretend kit, kicks the air and sings into her rolled up magazine. "Don’t wanna be all by myself, anymore..."
As Bridget records in her diary, ‘Loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.’ And she is not alone in thinking what she thinks. It was Emily Carr who observed, ‘You come into the world alone and you go out of this world alone. Yet it seems to me that you are more alone while living than even going and coming.’
Mother Teresa observed that ‘loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.’ Even Albert Einstein once remarked, ‘It is strange to be known so universally and yet be so lonely.’
Each of us feels lonely at times, and wants to be understood. We fill our time with events and pack meeting after meeting into our schedule, and phone call after e-mail. Yet despite all the people that surround us and all the activity we engage in, we rarely connect deeply with others. We seem to have become a society of acquaintances, living vicarious ‘friendships’ instead through characters on the TV like those on the popular US sitcom Friends.
The rapid urbanisation of the world - a modern phenomenon that has spawned over 300 cities of more than one million people - has meant that people are packed closer together physically, yet live in greater isolation. London is like a thousand suburbs in search of a city. We are little islands of self-absorbed, self-contained individuals, cast adrift from the solid continent of community.
Society is characterised more by fear and suspicion than by friendship and neighbourliness. Loneliness assumes many forms, each equally undesirable - an unsatisfied inner ache, a vacuum, a craving for satisfaction. The human heart has an insatiable longing to be loved.
Loneliness is the feeling that you don’t really matter to anyone, that you are not significant, that you are isolated. It can occur at any time in our lives, affecting the young and the elderly, the busy and the leisurely. A person can feel very lonely and yet be lost in a crowd; on the other hand, you can feel physically alone and yet have a strong sense of personal connection.
Research shows that the experiences which really trigger acute loneliness are the death of a life partner or other family member, a separation or divorce, a broken engagement and leaving your home for study or work. All these can prompt deep emotional trauma.
So it’s not without reason that loneliness has been termed the most desolate word in the English language. The single person in particular lacks one of the most obvious antidotes to loneliness: a loving partner. It’s made all the harder thanks to the unhelpful yet popular idea - or myth - that everyone should get married and live happily ever after. The implication is that if you’re not married, you have somehow failed. Curiously, this myth still abounds, despite the fact that our culture also looks suspiciously on the institutions such as marriage.
Her friends are constantly telling Bridget Jones that she should find a man and settle down. Certainly, loneliness can lead to discouragement and even despair - yet the good news is that it doesn’t have to. It can bring about, much more positively, greater insight, deeper understanding, a more realistic lifestyle and unselfish loving.
We can’t always control our feelings, of course, but we can control the decisions and choices we make because of our feelings. Bridget is dissatisfied with herself, and even seems discontent with her own aims and values in life. Lurking beneath is a mass of insecurities. Every embarrassing moment serves to reinforce the critical view she holds of herself. This is a typical human tendency, one that we all seem to share.
Bridget believes that exercise and clean living is the key to her change, as many of us do. She changes her goals and the content of her bookshelf to adapt herself to a new set of rules. Her books fluctuate between ‘What men want’ and then ‘How to get what you want.’
Film clip 2 - throwing things away.
Bridget is turning over a new leaf. "At times like this," she records in her diary, "continuing with one’s life seems impossible, and eating the entire contents of one’s fridge seems inevitable. I have two choices: to give up and accept permanent state of spinsterhood and eventually be eaten by Alsatians. Or not. And this time, I choose not. I will not be defeated."
So, into the bin go the self-help books, which counsel what men want and how to get them. And onto the shelves, instead, go the new books about how to live without men. Cut to Bridget pedalling defiantly at the gym... and falling off her bike. Cut to Bridget looking in the papers for jobs in TV. Cut to Bridget walking over a London bridge, head up, on a sunny day. She will not be defeated.
Many of us never seem satisfied. Jason Lehman once wrote:
‘It was Spring, but it was Summer I wanted -
The warm days and the great outdoors.
It was Summer, but it was Autumn I wanted -
The colourful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was Autumn, but it was Winter I wanted -
the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was Winter, but it was spring I wanted -
the warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted -
the freedom and the respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted -
to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted -
the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted -
the presence of mind, without limitations.
Then my life was over, and I never got what I wanted.’
We seek more pleasure, more treasure and more leisure. Today we idolise sex, wealth, fame, pleasure, power and physical beauty. ‘How do I look?’ has become the predominant question in life. We worship the profane trinity of Me, Myself and I.
Bridget kept account of her weight and calorie intake every day. Do we treat scales like an idol, bowing to see what they say about us, and letting their verdict determine how we feel?
The 23rd Psalm for Dieting
My diet is my shepherd, I shall be in want,
It makes me jog quietly round and round green pastures,
It leads me to quietly drink water,
And jump on and off the scales.
It guides me to resist all pleasurable food
For my figure’s shape.
Even though I walk through the aisles of Sainsbury’s
I will buy no Bovril
For you are with me;
Your measuring tape and your calorie counter
They confuse me.
You prepare a table before me
In the presence of the Tellytubbies.
You cover my lettuce with low-fat mayonnaise,
My diet coke overflows.
Surely a rumbling stomach and a feeling of irritability will be with me
All the days of my slimming plan
And I will worry about my weight forever.
(Dr Debbie Lovell)
Like Bridget, we strive to measure up, while wishing we could be known and loved for who we really are. It’s a search, ultimately, for the unconditional love of God.
Film clip 3 - I like you just as you are.
Bridget is leaving a dinner party early. Darcy has followed her out, stopping her on the stairs. The Christmas lights glow in the background; a taxi hoots outside the doors.
"I hear it didn’t work out with Daniel Cleaver," he says.
"No," she replies.
"I’m delighted to hear it," he adds.
At which point, Bridget spews words at Darcy. She feels like an idiot.
She always feels like an idiot. She always puts her foot in it. She always says the wrong things. She always messes up. And people like Darcy know it.
Darcy says he’s sorry for being so rude the first time they met at her mother’s New Yea’s curry. In fact, he says he likes her. "Despite appearances, I like you very much."
And just as Bridget is spewing forth some more - "Yes, apart from the drinking and smoking, the vulgar mother and the verbal diarrhoea..." - he stuns her.
"I like you just the way you are." Bridget Jones is dumbstruck.
When Mark Darcy tells Bridget that he likes her just the way she is, he shows that he’s the right choice because he’s not asking her to compromise herself to meet his selfish needs. Instead, he’s offering her unconditional love.
As a result, Bridget grows in self-respect, so that she is able to turn down the manipulative, self-centred Cleaver and finally turn to the man who quietly offers her respect and friendship, as well as romantic love.
The psychologist Freud wrote, ‘People are hungry for love.’ The psychologist Jung wrote, ‘People are hungry for security.’ The psychologist Adler wrote, ‘People are hungry for significance.’ Bridget Jones’s Diary is about a woman who is hungry for all three - for love, security and significance.
We were all created with two major needs: fellowship with God and companionship with other human beings. There’s no substitute for either. The spiritual and social instinct lies deep within every human being, and when this need remains unsatisfied, the seeds of loneliness can grow and flourish.
Jane Austen once wrote, ‘Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.’ Blaise Pascal believed that in every heart there exists a God-shaped vacuum. And centuries before him, Augustine wrote, ‘God created man for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Him.’ For this reason, the greatest need of every person is to seek after an authentic relationship with God, the Great Physician, who has the remedy for every disorder of the human heart.
We are hungry for God and in him, ultimately, we find love, security and significance. Bridget, meanwhile, seeks a meaningful relationship to fill the space in her life, and she is restless and anxious. We need a relationship with God to fill the space, and then we need to place God at the centre of our relationships.
Like Bridget, we need to realise that we are never really alone. People may let us down. Friends may disappoint us. Families sometimes fracture. But God is looking out for us. God sees, God knows, God cares, God loves. And God forgives.
Film clip 4 - Buying a new diary
The snow outside is falling, Darcy is in Bridget’s flat, and everything, finally, seems right with the world. She’s next door in the bedroom, changing into some sexier underwear. Darcy, on his own, sees a book resting on the table. It’s her diary. And it’s open at the wrong page. "Mark Darcy is rude. He’s unpleasant. He’s dull. No wonder his clever wife left him. I hate him! I hate him!"
"I see," says Darcy, to himself. And at that, he walks out. Bridget hears a door slam shut. She looks out the window, and sees him trudging down the snowy street. She calls out, but he doesn’t hear her, or won’t hear her. Bridget runs into the dining room, and sees the open diary. Help. Immediately, it all makes sense.
Without stopping to get dressed (she simply flings a cardigan around her shoulders), she runs into the street. "Mark!" she shouts. At which point, Mark emerges from a shop. The snow is still falling heavily. "I’m so sorry," she pleads. "I didn’t mean it. Well, I did, I suppose, but I didn’t mean what I meant. Everyone knows diaries are so full of crap.
"I know that," replies Mark. "I was just buying you a new one. Time to make a new start, perhaps."
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the hero’s pride is levelled, the heroine’s prejudice turns out to be unfounded and the two come together to live happily. Why not discard last year’s diary and begin again with God?
Whether you are married, divorced, widowed or single, you are
being proposed to. Jesus is proposing to you. God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them. So why not lay down our pain, pride, prejudice, preoccupations, possessions, and pursue Christ? Be assured: if you walk with him, look to him and expect help from him, he will never fail you.
How much does Jesus Christ love us? The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, prayed that they would ‘grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ (Ephesians 1.17-18). Wide, long, high and deep - that’s four amazing ways in which Jesus’ love grows for us.
Let’s take them one at a time, starting with ‘wide’. Jesus’ love is wide enough to include everybody who wants to receive it. The Bible tells us that ‘God so loved the world...’ - but who does that include? Everybody. I take tremendous comfort in knowing that God’s love for me is utterly realistic; and because he already knows the worst about me, no discovery can make him disillusioned about me, in the way I can become disillusioned about myself (and others).
There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. But the good news is that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. He loves each one of us, as if we were the only one. One writer put it this way: ‘If God had a fridge, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring, and a sunrise every morning.’
Whenever you want to talk, he’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and still he chose your heart. Because Jesus loves me, I don’t have to prove my own self-worth.
Second, God’s love is long enough to last forever. He says, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31.3). Psalm 81.2 says, ‘God’s love will last for all times.’ That is so different to our kind of love. Human love wears out - that’s why we have divorces. That’s why we need God’s love; for God’s love never wears out. It is patient, persevering.
It’s good news that God never gives up on us. He loves us on our good days and on our bad days, because God’s love is not dependent on our response. God is love.
Third, God’s love is high enough to be everywhere. The Bible says, ‘neither height, nor depth will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.’ There is no place we can go to hide from God’s love - because it reaches the parts other loves can’t reach. Being a Christian is all about being in a relationship with God - so we never have to be alone.
Fourth, God’s love is deep enough to meet my needs. ‘My only hope is your love. For my problems are too big for me to solve and are piled over my head,’ writes the psalmist (Psalm 40.11). It’s not hard to identify with that. No matter how big the problem, his love runs deeper.
Some people are in deep despair; some are in deep trouble. Some people are in deep distress; some are in deep loneliness. God’s love is deeper still.
Where is God when you hit rock bottom? ‘The eternal God,’ says
the Bible, ‘is your refuge and underneath you are his everlasting arms.’ God can catch us and support us if we will let him. Sometimes, God sends the brilliant light of a rainbow to remind us of his presence, lest we forget in our personal darkness his great and gracious promises to never leave us alone.
When we look at these four phrases - height, depth, width and length – we have the four dimensions of the cross. We cannot talk about the love of God without talking of the cross of Jesus Christ, because the ultimate demonstration of love is when someone gives their life for you. Jesus said, ‘Greater love has no one than a person who lays down their life for their friends.’ God demonstrated how much he loved us by dying for us.
Notice that he doesn’t show his love by sending a romantic poem or dropping a bunch of red roses onto our doorstep. Instead, ‘God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.’
He shows he cares, not by a poem, but through cries of agony and excruciating pain. It’s not champagne he drinks, but bitter wine. He doesn’t bear roses in his arms, but a crown of thorns on his head. He doesn’t bathe us in fine smelling perfume, but saves us through sweat and blood. God’s proposal was nailed to a cross. And he did it for us - that’s true love.
I have found that many people - including Christians –
find it easier to tell someone else that God loves them, than to say it to themselves. It probably has something to do with lingering feelings of guilt or inadequacy. But when you look at all that Jesus has said and done to show you how much you mean to him, such feelings will disappear. We may always sense the pangs of loneliness in our lives. But no matter, ultimately. For we all are of value to God.