The Romantic Comedy Blogathon is exactly what it says on the tin. It is hosted by Carole & Co. and Backlots. For a complete list of participating bloggers, please click on the links at either site.
Bridget Jones's Diary
seen on TV @ AMC
There's been some talk lately about the decline of the romantic comedy. It's one of the oldest and traditionally most lucrative genres in Hollywood, and as such, it's bound to change and evolve, as storytelling genres do. But I gotta say... if a movie like Bridget Jones's Diary is an example of modern romcoms, then it's either due for a major overhaul or a major burial.
I know this was a hugely popular movie when it came out, based on an equally popular novel, but is a movie like this really supposed to represent what the modern woman thinks about when she goes dating? Needless to say, this provided me with precious little insight, partly because it's a poorly-made movie, but mostly because I don't know anyone even remotely like Bridget Jones - and I get the impression that she's supposed to somehow be representative of Single Women Everywhere.
It was different back in the day. Romcoms had bizarre, singular women characters, played by legends like Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Judy Holliday, and more, and they were never meant to be Everywomen. They were exceptional: ditzy heiresses with pet leopards, con artists hustling nerdy scientists, dumb blondes with charm and innocence.
Their exceptional nature, combined with the skill of the great actresses who played them, made them memorable. They were women you couldn't ignore or take for granted, whether their male suitors loved them or hated them or feared them. The fun in watching them was seeing how they'd get together with the objects of their affection, as you knew they would.
While I have no problem with trying to craft more realistic characters in modern romcoms, the problem with ones like Bridget is that they seem to have men on the brain all the time. I thought about the single women over 30 that I know - and for what it's worth, I had to really think about who they are, because I don't know that many anymore - and if they have one thing in common, I'd say it's that they have something else that keeps their lives fulfilled other than a man, and if that bothers them, well, they don't talk about it a great deal (at least not on social media).
Plus, it doesn't help that in the movie, Bridget's dilemma, such as it is, involves having to choose between the lesser of two dicks, one of whom is her sexually-harassing boss (but she wanted it, so it's okay... I guess?). It's not like her parents pressure her to get married, or she keeps seeing her friends getting married or anything - she seems to put most of the burden of finding a man on herself because that's what the plot requires. She's basically a British Cathy! I never believed that she wanted either of those guys as anything other than a short-term fling to stave off loneliness and Zod forbid, being a spinster (a word she actually uses, more than once).
Gary Cooper appealed to Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire because his perpetual square-ness had a charm that she grew used to over time, and cherished. Dean Martin appealed to Judy Holliday in Bells are Ringing because he tried so hard to be a successful writer, fighting even his own nature. Melvyn Douglas appealed to Greta Garbo in Ninotchka because he was able to see beyond her way of life, which was so alien to him. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth's characters in Diary don't have that spark of something special - indeed, in the movie's climax they end up fist-fighting, in over-the-top movie fashion, over her.
I should also say something about Bridget's weight. While it's clear that she has a bit of a self-image problem, it wasn't as big an issue as I expected. She may be pudgy, but it's only Hollywood Pudgy, and while it's admirable that Renee Zellweger put on weight for the role, she was no Melissa McCarthy, obviously. Frankly, given how Zellweger looked with the added weight and without it, there's no doubt in my mind that losing it was a change for the worst.
And then there's the music - the relentless use of pop standards that telegraph the action in the movie and ostensibly tell you what you're supposed to feel. I love a good soundtrack as much as the next guy, but there's no art, no imagination and certainly no subtlety to the way Diary uses its music. A cover of "All By Myself" which Bridget sings alone in her apartment? Aretha's "Respect" as Bridget tells off her boss? A bad cover of "It's Raining Men" as Grant and Firth are fighting? Is that the best this movie can do? Look at any Wes Anderson movie by comparison and you'll see the difference immediately.
Apart from reanimating the corpses of Ernst Lubitsch and George Cukor, I don't know what can be done about modern romcoms. Sure, every once in awhile you get a genuine gem like Enough Said or Think Like a Man, but most of the time, it's movies like Diary that get made, and women eat them up... but then, women are starved for quality movies these days, so maybe they can't be blamed for taking what they can get. Hollywood can do better.