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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Bridget Jones’s Baby movie review: how to infantilize women

Bridget Jones's Baby red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
The desperation, the neuroticism, and the idiocy of Bridget Jones continues to be appalling, not appealing. She is not the everywoman she is meant to be.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): desperate for movies about women
I’m “biast” (con): can’t stand Bridget Jones
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Bridget Jones — the woman who once served blue plastic soup to her friends, isn’t that adorable? — is back. God help us. She is 43 years old, and both unmarried and childless, which many women would consider a blessing. But not Bridget Jones! In Bridget Jones’s Baby — which bears no resemblance whatsoever to Helen Fielding’s third Bridget novel, Mad About the Boy — she continues to fret about being a “spinster” and a “barren husk,” because in her head, the year is 1953, or maybe even 1853, and not 2016. She worries about coming across to men as a “verbally incontinent old maid”; she really does believe that the ideal woman is young, married, and keeps her mouth shut. While it is true that there are people in the world who hold to such nonsense — including, shockingly, some women! — the self-hatred it takes for a woman to apply this to herself is not endearing. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be married and make babies, the desperation, the neuroticism, and the idiocy with Bridget wallows in this quest here are appalling. She is not cute. She is not charming.tweet She is most certainly not the everywoman we are meant to accept her as.

The self-hatred it requires for Bridget Jones to be Bridget Jones is not endearing.

Apparently the newspaper column by Fielding that later became those best-selling novels was meant to be satirical of the sorts of obsessions — weight, marriage, and motherhood — that women’s magazines assign to half the human race. But Baby, as with the first two films in the series, is wholly indulgent of those obsessions, in a wholly uncritical way. Bridget Jones — the character and the movies — infantilizes women and reduces women to baby-making adjuncts to men. No matter what else you’ve got going on in your life, Bridget Jones is here to remind you, you’re nothing without a man and a baby.

Bridget (Renee Zellweger: Case 39, Monsters vs. Aliens) does allegedly have her own life. She’s now working as TV news producer, which you might think is a position that requires integrity, a wide-ranging awareness of the larger world, and attention to detail. Not for Bridget! She’s ignorant (she fails to recognize a major pop star, a major dot-com billionaire, and a major political figure) and incompetent (she screws up more than one live interview because she is unable to focus on her work), and she uses her position for personal advantage. Only the putative villain here speaks the truth about professional Bridget: the new 20something hipster consultant (the very funny Kate O’Flynn: Mr. Turner, Happy-Go-Lucky) brought in to transform hard news into the TV equivalent of Internet clickbait dares to point out how terrible Bridget is at her job. (I think that’s meant to make us feel sorry for Bridget. I silently cheered.)

How it would really be: “You take her.” “No, she’s all yours, I insist.”

How it would really be: “You take her.” “No, she’s all yours, I insist.”tweet

Personally, Bridget is beyond a mess. After personal encounters with two different men in the space of a week, Bridget finds herself pregnant. That’s a bit of a problem, but it’s how she deals with it that constitutes the mess. Of course she agonizes that her predicament makes her a slut, though a brief scene with her lovely dad (Jim Broadbent: The Legend of Tarzan, Eddie the Eagle) sets her right on that account; this movie needs a whole lot more of his pragmatism. (Emma Thompson [A Walk in the Woods, Saving Mr. Banks] as Bridget’s obstetrician mostly delivers smacking down of Bridget’s nonsense; there’s nowhere near enough of her, either.) But she hasn’t got the slightest bit of worry about what an idiot she is: she has reached the age of 43 without ever coming into contact with the idea that condoms expire after, you know, a decade or more in your purse. (This is part of the infantilizing.) And what’s her first clue that she might be pregnant? Even though a big point is made about how Bridget is now at her “perfect weight,” she decides to embark on an exercise regime to lose weight, but after a month she’s lost nothing. (Never mind that there are lots of reasons besides pregnancy that could account for that. But please, let’s keep reinforcing women’s fixation on their weight: even your “perfect weight” still isn’t good enough!)

Perhaps the most infuriating thing about Bridget’s exploits is how they ignore the realities of women’s lives — birth control can fail even when you use it perfectly — in favor of sitcom shenanigans. (The script is by Fielding, Borat and Bruno’s Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson, though none of the withering wit of either of the latter two comes through at all. Director Sharon Maguire returns from 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary.) It would be quite simple for her to determine who the father is: Have the amniocentesis early on (she refuses because, like a two-year-old, Scary Needle!), explain to both men the situation, and do the DNA test right away. It’s not like there isn’t still tons of dramedy potential in that! But Bridget being kookily incapable of acting like an adulttweet, this is not in the cards. So she strings along both Jack (Patrick Dempsey: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Valentine’s Day), the handsome American stranger she met at a music festival and enjoyed a night of fun with, and Mark (Colin Firth: Kingsman: The Secret Service, Before I Go to Sleep), the ex she ran into unexpectedly and had another night of fun with a week later, allowing each of them to believe that he’s going to be a father. (In case you were wondering, the other recurring man of her life, Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver, is out of the picture.)

Ignorant and incompetent at work, and cruel and unstable in her personal life. Bridget Jones is a nightmare.

Of course, Bridget being Bridget, she can’t even have nights of fun without handwringing and trauma and anxiety, and she’s even worse in the aftermath: she is continuously cruel to both men, neither of whom deserves to be treated this way. And still both men find her irresistible! She is unstable, irrational, and just plain awful, but Jack insists that she’d “be the greatest possible mother to my child” — they are total strangers to each other, so he has absolutely no basis upon which to make such a judgment, not that the film recognizes that.

No, Bridget Jones’s Baby keeps insisting that Bridget is just the most enchanting creature ever. She isn’t. She’s a nightmare. And just as both Jack and Mark should run screaming from her, so should anyone who respects women run from this movie.

A shorter version of this review appeared first at The List.

red light 2 stars

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Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016) | directed by Sharon Maguire
US/Can release: Sep 16 2016
UK/Ire release: Sep 16 2016

MPAA: rated R for language, sex references and some nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Matt Clayton

    I was hoping this would be worthwhile, since Emma Thompson had a hand in it.


  • RogerBW

    “Bridget Jones made money, right? Let’s do a sequel to that.”
    “But Renee Zellweger is like over 40, ew.”
    “That’s OK, she’ll bring in the older chicks. Just make sure there’s nothing else for them on the release schedule that month.”
    “Yeah, that’ll be hard.”
    (General laughter.)

  • Beowulf

    Was this written by a man or a woman?

  • Jurgan

    The movie or the review?

  • Jim Mann

    I enjoyed the first film in the series, in large part because it was an amusing Pride and Prejudice pastiche. But I never saw the second, and based on this, I doubt I’ll bother with the third.

  • Gender-obvious names of the writers of both the movie and this review are included on this page. Do you really need someone else to spoon-feed you?

  • ketac6

    I just watched the second film as it was on TV and it was her incompetence and idiocy that seemed to be defining features of Bridget’s character and I found this very annoying. In the books it was more that she was a fairly average young woman who was okay at her job but felt that she had to aspire to all sorts of ridiculous goals because that’s what women are supposed to do. Hence the obsessions with weight, fancy cooking, poise and everything else. That was satirical, the films were not.

    Frankly I had no idea why Mark Darcy was still interested but then even the lovely Colin Firth couldn’t stop him being very dull as well as a bit uptight.

    I happen to be 43 single and childless but I really hope I’m less of an idiot than Bridget.

  • I’m 47, single and childless. We are allegedly the target audience for this. And yet look how it failed us! :-)

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, I can’t see this dragging in many people who didn’t enjoy the original.
    And what is the message? In fifteen years, she hasn’t grown or developed at all: it’s the same old can’t-decide-between-two-men plot. (To be slightly fair, Fielding’s original articles with this storyline were written in 2005, and her script based on them in 2011.)
    I imagine the target audience is supposed to think “hey, here’s a woman older than Hollywood usually allows who actually has a choice of men” – but the fact that she still feels she must make a choice and Have A Man devalues that.

  • deering24

    As well, she doesn’t earn it. The intelligent, savvy Elizabeth Bennett fascinating different two men–understandable. The goofy Bridget–naw. ;)

  • halavana

    being 40-something and childless wasn’t anything like what this movie seems to present. will pass & wait for a movie with a 40-something woman character who is more than a caricature…
    thanks for the review

  • Except she’s not a woman: she’s a moron.

    If Bridget Jones is a totally relatable everywoman, then all the awful things that MRAs and misogynists say about women are true (that we’re incompetent, irrational, just waiting for a man to leech off of, etc). And I refuse to believe that.

  • IntrepidNormal

    This seemed like a miss from the getgo. When are we going to get the movie about the 43 year old single, childless woman that’s pretty cool with herself? Considering that describes a lot of women I know and will likely be me in 13 years I’d desperately like to see something like that.

  • IntrepidNormal

    The first one is fun, but not without its problems. The second is dreck, give it a pass.

  • IntrepidNormal

    I keep hearing about how Bridget hasn’t grown or changed at all, but it seems like she’s regressed significantly. I remember the Bridget in the first movie as deeply flawed, but still sort of a weirdly charming nonconformist with cool friends and an interesting, if unconventional life. Her insecurities didn’t seem all that removed from ones that real women I knew felt as well, and although she was shown as being somewhat hopeless at work and prone to the occasional pratfalls, I felt like by the end she was on her way to becoming a more self-actualized woman, with a job she’d developed a certain feel for, and the ability to admit her mistakes and own up to them.

    I’m disappointed to say the least.

  • log

    Saw the movie last night. Agree with above and although there were funny movements the whole idea of the movie – two men being treated so badly, offended me. Pregnancy as a weapon? Its narcissistic to even suppose two men in this hideous position would not/ should not, run a mile, leaving Bridget to try pursuing the biological father for maintenance through legal channels. That issue is also a can of worms, making men pay for offspring they never agreed to have! That is another whole discussion. Bridget is a childish, narcissistic fool. Not something for females over 40 to emulate for sure. But it whiled away an hour of my time and Colin Firth is gorgeous.

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