Featuring a blousy, winningly inept size

Featuring a blousy, winningly inept size-12 heroine, Bridget Jones's Diary is a
fetching adaptation of
Helen Fielding's runaway bestseller, grittier than Ally McBeal but sweeter
than Sex and the City. The
normally sylphlike Renée Zellweger (Nurse Betty, Me, Myself and Irene)
wolfed pasta to gain
poundage to play "singleton" Bridget, a London-based publicist who
divides her free time between
binge eating in front of the TV, downing Chardonnay with her friends, and
updating the diary in which
she records her negligible weight fluctuations and romantic misadventures
of the year. Things start off
badly at Christmas when her mother tries to set her up with seemingly
standoffish lawyer Mark Darcy
(Colin Firth), whom Bridget accidentally overhears dissing her. Instead she
embarks on a disastrous
liaison with her raffish boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant, infinitely more
likeable when he's playing a
baddie instead of his patented tongue-tied fops). Eventually, Bridget comes
to wonder if she's let her
pride prejudice her against the surprisingly attractive Mr. Darcy.
If the plot sounds familiar, that's because Fielding's novel was itself a
retelling of Jane Austen's Pride
and Prejudice, whose romantic male lead is also named Mr. Darcy. An
extra ironic poke in the ribs is
added by the casting of Firth, who played Austen's haughty hero in the
acclaimed BBC adaptation of
Austen's novel. First-time director Sharon Maguire directs with confident
comic zest, while Zellweger
twinkles charmingly, fearlessly baring her cellulite and pulling off a spoton English accent. Like Four
Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill (both of which were written by
this film's coscreenwriter,
Richard Curtis), Bridget Jones's stock-in-trade is a very English selfdeprecating sense of humor, a
mild suspicion of Americans (especially if they're thin and successful), and
a subtly expressed analysis
of thirtysomething fears about growing up and becoming a "smug married."
The whole is, as Bridget
would say, v. good. --Leslie Felperin