Bridget Jones is back. And she’s here to break the sequel fatigue. It’s not just that Bridget and its star have been away from screens for so long. Bridget Jones’s Baby feels fresh because it is fresh, just as the series’ originator was back in 2001.
We join our pal Bridget alone in her flat. “All By Myself” plays us in from black. It’s her birthday, and she holds a solitary cupcake with a solitary candle. Voiceover asks, “How did I get here … again?” But soon enough our plucky heroine cracks a smile at the song and shuts it off in favor of something decidedly more upbeat for a singalong: “Jump Around.” Our gal is just fine. She has a killer job, lovely friends, she’s known great loves in her life. She’s grown. And so, as we begin, she’s just looking to have a great time.
For the first reel, Bridget is just living. She’s throwing around quips — glamping is the subject of a particularly sharp barb to the effect of, “Putting a ‘GL’ in front of something doesn’t make it fun. If we’d called him Gladolf Hitler, it wouldn’t have made him a nice guy” — getting into mischief at work, failing miserably at public speaking and even crowd-surfing. On the advice of her pal, she embraces the notion that she needs “a good, old-fashioned, shafting,” and spends a spontaneous evening with a handsome American chap named Jack (Patrick Dempsey), who has a super nice yurt at a music festival. Soon thereafter, nostalgia and alcohol and old feelings lead to a reunion with one Mark Darcy. Bridget still isn’t losing her head; she’s reveling in her choices. And then … in a convention Hollywood usually reserves for teenagers and twentysomethings, she finds herself preggers and unclear on the source of her impending offspring.
And so, in earnest, she begins to uncover the truth of the situation and her own feelings. The film doesn’t make a punchline of Bridget, but rather the reactions to her situation and simultaneous oh-the-humanity feelings it inspires in everyone involved. As has always been a hallmark of the series, it’s honest and relatable. The film finds its laughs and its charm in degrees of believability. Bridget’s mom is thrilled, but also insists her daughter stand behind a plate of treats that will conveniently conceal her baby bump. Bridget’s doctor (the ceaselessly wonderful Emma Thompson) becomes a sounding board and confidant. Bridget comes to recognize her own feelings in fits and starts. People make mistakes. They regret those mistakes.
In short, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a welcome surprise, even in those moments when it’s outrageously silly. Here’s a series that has grown logically, never feeling the need to one up itself, and instead relying on character development to reveal the next chapter in a long and full life. Most romantic comedies dwell on fleeting moments to create a fairy tale; Bridget Jones lives, and thrives, in the in-between spaces.