Patient: Bridget Jones Diary Profile: A British woman's attempt to have it all—career, relationship, smart dinner parties—is doomed by the fact she's an idiot who falls down a lot and rarely dresses appropriately. Think My Brilliant Career meets The Jerk meets Waiting to Exhale meets Hardly Working.
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Symptoms: This column is typically about screenwriting, but sometimes good screenwriting can't escape bad casting (i.e. Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon, Sylvester Stallone in Rhinestone, Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon. . . pretty much everyone in Paint Your Wagon). The producers chose to cast the excellent American actress Renee Zellweger as Bridget. Unfortunately, Zellwegerhas a distracting fauxBritish accent—fluctuating between Eliza Doolittle, Ethel Barrymore and Homer Simpson when he imitates Monty Burns—and is too fresh-faced to play a woman who's supposed to have been around the block a few times. Zellweger looks like she'd need to get her mom's permission to cross the street. Besides not being American, Bridget also is not supposed to be stupid, which is how the script and/or Zellweger portray her. Instead of a smart, if overwhelmed, heroine, we get Zellweger doing Jennifer Aniston channeling Jerry Lewis.
Diagnosis: Emma Thompson? Miranda Richardson? Kristin Scott Thomas? Cate Blanchett? Helena Bonham Carter?
Prescription: We connect with Bridget Jones not because she's looking for a man, but because she buys into the same crap we all do: that you can—should!—have it all and that the way to do this is to read a lot of books with "have it all" in the title and make lists and dress and cook and talk and think a certain way. The great thing with the diary format—which is never really pursued in the movie and almost totally abandoned halfway through—is that it shows the small steps forward and giant leaps back while reminding us that ultimately, we're stuck with ourselves. Instead of that, we get a run-of-the-mill romantic triangle. The producers, director and writers really should have watched Groundhog Day a few hundred times to see the subtle power in short, almost redundant scenes that show life at it's most incremental: real and therefore powerful and entertaining.
Prognosis: Follow my advice, and Helena Bonham Carter wins an Oscar in this funny, truthful film that awakens women to the tyranny of modern expectations. And Martha Stewart is forced into hiding.