30 April 2021
2001. It was a different time in pop culture.
Everyone looked sharp in hip-huggers, a camo bucket hat and frameless tinted sunglasses. Jeans and a nice top was considered suitable red carpet attire. Leonardo DiCaprio was dating a woman roughly his own age. And Oscar winning films weren’t always dour and hard to watch; they were actually enjoyed by mainstream audiences.
And in 2001- twenty years ago (scary) – Bridget Jones’s Diary was released in cinemas. The film, written by Richard Curtis (known for just about every British film you’ve ever seen) delighted audiences and critics alike (like just about every Richard Curtis film you’ve ever seen) and Brits heaved a sigh of relief that the country’s most beloved heroine of the page hadn’t been butchered by an American.
Renee Zellweger (Bridget) achieved a hell of a lot more than that. In fact, I’m of the strong belief that she should’ve won an Oscar (sorry Julia Roberts).
As should the film. Bridget Jones’ Diary should have absolutely swept the Oscars, and here’s why.
- She had an uphill battle.
When an American actress was cast in this role, British audiences had an unusually hostile- some would say xenophobic- reaction. You see Bridget Jones wasn’t just a beloved character who happened to be created by an English author (I still don’t understand the difference between British and English, so they’ll be used interchangeably). She was England. How could a foreign actress, and an American at that, possibly understand the subtleties and many layers of their culture? Now, I’ve read the books and (obviously) seen the films, and I still don’t understand what’s so quintessentially English about them. I consider a single woman in her thirties, who has problems with her weight and career as pretty much universally relatable (I wonder why).
But Renee silenced the naysayers by nailing the most important element- and the one thing for which she’d have been crucified if she didn’t totally nail (no pun intended)- the accent. Which brings us to…
- She committed to the role
Renee must have had premonitions of being eaten alive if she, to be blunt, fucked up the role with her stupid American accent and lack of experience working in an office (sorry, a British office). So, Renee didn’t treat filming as some kind of half-arsed holiday, as actors are wont to do when making lighter fare. She committed.
As I said, it was for some reason imperative for Renee that she learn every detail of office culture; knowledge that was required for about three scenes in which she flirts with Hugh Grant while sitting at a computer. So, obviously, she went undercover at a real London office, pretending to be an English temp, for a month leading up to filming.
A month! I fucking hate working in an office and I have to be there. That’s the most masochistic method of getting into character I’ve ever heard, including the time Christian Bale literally starved himself for The Machinist. To make matters even stranger, Zellweger was dating megastar actor Jim Carey at the time. And she kept a framed photo of him on her desk. Remember, she was undercover so this would have been every bit as bizarre as your workmate displaying a framed photo of Jim Carey. Or in the case of mine, Tony Abbott (the less said about that the better).
Anyway, it paid off and she nailed the accent to the extent that co-star Hugh Grant had no idea she was American when he heard her speak in her native Texan accent at the Oscars. That’s right, to rub salt in the wound, the Academy made Zellweger present awards. Absolutely robbed.
- She got ugly for Oscar
If there’s one thing the academy loves more than overly long biopics, it’s ugly people. Not actually ugly of course. But beautiful people pretending to be ugly. Think Charlize Theron in Monster. So the gorgeous Renee Zellweger did what was required and got Ugly for Oscar. Ugly by Hollywood standards that is, which is still hotter than 90% of us plebs. Still, the naturally slim Zellweger’s decision to gain a few kilos paid off. For me at least. When I first saw this movie at the age of twelve, I don’t think I’d ever seen a larger woman (again, by Hollywood standards) in a lead role. And not only that, but being pursued by two men without getting a makeover first!
Good on ya, Zellweger.
- Bring on the testosterone
In support of my argument that Bridget Jones’s Diary should have swept the 2001 Oscars, I present Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Now Colin Firth has already won Best Actor for his portrayal of an awkward, stuttering king (riveting). But he should have won for his portrayal of an awkward, stuttering Mark Darcy (Bridget’s love interest)- alongside Hugh Grant for his portrayal of the sexily sleazy (or should it be sleazily sexy?) Daniel Cleaver.
Colin Firth and Hugh Grant are the yin and yang of the film’s dude quota, and they’re so good in their respective roles that you start actually believing that Colin Firth really is an uptight yet handsome lawyer, and Grant a charming womaniser (*clears throat*). Most importantly, they’re both flawed yet likeable. The film never falls back on the trope of classifying love interests as either heroes or villains, as many lazy rom-coms do.
Unlike Bridget, I can’t choose between them – give em both an Oscar! And while we’re at it, one for the Casting Director. .
As for Best Picture? Get in the bin, Gladiator. Until Russell Crowe rocks a pair of granny panties, Bridget Jones will always be the winner in my eyes.
Girls’ Locker Room Talk: art, articles and entertainment by women, for women (and everyone else)