But Helen Fielding, who co-wrote this adaptation of her best-selling novel, constructed her heroine, a thirtysomething London lass seeking the love and professional success that has so far eluded her, with such wit, warmth and universal resonance that Bridget Jones can stand with or without the expository gimmick.
And she's transported moderately well to the bigscreen in the form of the likeable Renee Zellweger, who gained about 20 pounds to attain the paradoxical figure of a woman who is purportedly forever on the verge of being pudgy yet still has the gams to wear micro-minis when the occasion calls for it. Zellweger's British accent is surprisingly not bad, and, after the first scene, one's anticipatory cringe in preparation for some potential egregious mispronunciation soon relaxes and never has cause to return.
With a running time of just over an hour and a half, the script retains a fast-forwarded version of the love-hate triangle that forms between Bridget, her charismatic cad of a boss (played by Hugh Grant with just the right mix of allure and contemptibility) and the stuffy but somehow compelling Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), and wisely trims some of the book's more far-flung plot points. It is a pity that Bridget's "urban family," winningly brought to life with Shirley Henderson as the arch Jude, Sally Phillips as the feisty, foul-mouthed Shazzer and James Callis as the fantastically self-absorbed Tom, seems to get together about as often as real families do, which is to say that their wine-soaked confabs are all too rare. Thus, Bridget faces the series of euphorias and embarrassments that is her life mostly on her own, and though Zellweger conveys these appealingly relatable joys and mortifications with a bravely vulnerable zest, what's lacking is a strong "Go Bridget!" sentiment, to borrow from "Billy Elliott's" recent ad campaign. Starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Directed by Sharon Maguire. Written by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Jonathan Cavendish. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated R for language and some strong sexuality. Running time: 96 min