We love you Mark Darcy, Colin Firth, scream the girls of Poonani (a thinly disguised Pussy Riot) as they flash their appreciation. Our barrister hero looks distinctly uncomfortable at this flesh ridden gratitude, as the camera pans to his face. Modern British masculinity in action or at least the archetypal ideal of it. For make no mistake this film may be called Bridget Jones’s Baby but she is hardly the hero or heroine of this two hour flick.
Rather Bridget, Renee Zellweger, is Calamity Jane without the profanity and the six shooters, as she somehow, inexplicably manages a job as a news producer despite bungling her way through every opportunity it presents, whether it be Scottish hikers flashing their arses or General Lu Tong’s chauffeur involuntarily standing in for his boss at an interview. In other words she’s the comedy sidekick.
So no, don’t go and watch this film for one woman’s stirring tale of overcoming adversity while mixing the perfect career with the perfect family because you won’t find it. Instead, go and watch Bridget Jones for what it really is; an epic love letter to Colin Firth and his fantastic portrayal of all this is finest about the British male and the values he stands for.
In scene after scene, Firth’s character, Mark Darcy is shown as solid, upright, dependable, emotionally stunted and always possessed of the stiff upper lip that serves as the perfect accompaniment to his crisp Saville row suits. The kind of man who’ll go to his worst enemy’s funeral just because it’s the right thing to do (Hugh Grant’s absence from this film is it’s only shortcoming). You can’t help but cheer for him as he makes his inspiring declarations of not being able to show Bridget just how much he loves her before going for a kiss so stiff that a cardboard cut-out would probably make a more romantic go of it, in between missing the prenatal classes and swimming pool sessions because he’s too busy working.
…there’s nothing more we British love than the plucky underdog, a trait exemplified every time Colin Firth produces that forlorn hound dog expression…
That of course is exactly the point, and the film understands this, presenting our hero with a rival, not just for Bridget’s exceedingly fickle affections (her calamity is underscored at numerous points by cheap, but effective jokes), but also for championing what should be the masculine ideal. Jack Quant , played by Patrick Dempsey, formerly Derek in Grey’s Anatomy, is everything Mark is not. Easy, free spirited, always there for Bridget and her baby in a way that comes from not being tied down to a full time job, and very much in touch with his sensitive side. You’ll hate him, and come to cheer for Mark, cringing every time he’s late to a birthing class or whenever Bridget is rushed to hospital, and quickly coming to see him as the underdog.
Which is also kind of the point, for there’s nothing more we British love than the plucky underdog, a trait exemplified every time Colin Firth produces that forlorn hound dog expression of discomfort whenever the exposing of naked flesh tries to force some sparkle into his stolidly grey world. Yet there are values to be found beneath this dull exterior that, for all Mark Darcy exists only in the rom-com chick flick world of Bridget Jones, makes him something to be emulated. Yes he isn’t there for the baby in a flash like Jack, but that’s because he’s been in the Supreme Court fighting for women’s rights. Yes he may not handle emotion very well but that gives him a resilience that Jack, for all his apparent strength where Bridget is concerned, simply lacks. All of this is symbolised when Mark carries Bridget to the hospital for mile after mile, before Jack’s attempt to take over peters out after only a few steps, and that’s the question this film asks.
Would we rather have men who aren’t inhibited when it comes to emotion, and acknowledge their sensitive side, or should we stick with the idea of a man as someone who stands up for what he knows to be right not just in his own family, but in the wider world so as to teach his son those same values more effectively. Bridget Jones gives us an answer, as does Colin Firth.
By Gareth Wood