It’s a fantasy that many women like to give into sometimes: That you can be somewhat older, a little disheveled, not exactly fit, but still get the man of your dreams. Or make that two, or even three if you count a perfect baby son on the way.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” (“Bridget Jones no Nikki: Dame na Watashi no Saigo no Moteki”), the long awaited third installment of the enormously popular “Bridget Jones” series, has arrived on our shores and the whole thing is like a giant blob of cotton candy seemingly made for women only by an almost all-women team, including director Sharon Maguire and screenwriters Helen Fielding (also the author of the original novels) and Emma Thompson.
Here she is again, the lovably flawed heroine defined mostly by romantic mistakes and real pratfalls. Bridget (played by an ever-exuberant Renee Zellweger) is now 43 and a successful producer of a London news show. She has finally gotten her life together and the nemesis of her love life, Daniel (Hugh Grant), is out of the picture completely. But so is human-rights lawyer Mark (Colin Firth) whom she almost married but didn’t.
Then, in the space of one week, she bumps into Mark, sleeps with him and has a lengthy one-night stand (“Six hours!”) with an American IT billionaire named Jack (Patrick Dempsey). The pregnancy-test stick (the veritable crystal ball of Bridget’s life) shows up positive and the gynecologist (Emma Thompson) informs her that both men have a 50 percent chance of being the father. Now this is where the real fantasy kicks in: Both these dreamboats declare their undying love and support, and insist on being the father.
“I think this new Bridget Jones is going to feel new and different for the viewers. It’s not a traditional rom-com and has no traditional roles for men and women,” says Dempsey in an interview during a promotional visit to Tokyo. “While everyone’s used to seeing two men fighting over one woman, it’s pretty rare to see the two men start communicating with each other and trying to figure out a scenario that would work for everyone.”
When offered the role of Jack, Dempsey had never actually sat through a Bridget Jones movie (“I think I might have seen one in an airplane”) but was intrigued by the role when he read the screenplay.
“I’ve been doing rom-coms for a long time but this seemed like an opportunity to do something different,” he explains, adding that rom-coms are actually evolving. “There are more roles out there for actors that aren’t retreads of the same old stuff. In that sense, I think rom-coms and love stories are maybe more progressive than superhero and action movies.”
Despite his optimism, it’s hard to imagine the average male moviegoer (especially Japanese males) going for “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” This is less of a date movie than the exact opposite of one, and forcing your significant other to accompany you could end in a mild argument, if not worse. Youngsters of whatever gender could be mightily turned off, too. My 20-year old niece looked at the trailer and said in a voice dripping with disgust, “Is this what women want when they get older?”
Age discrimination is a huge thing in Japan, and young adults are often the worst offenders. Bridget Jones’ goofy escapades were adorable when she was in her 30s (in the very first “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” she was 32), but pulling off the same tricks at 43 would surely prove to be a lot harder.
“But that’s really the point of this movie,” stresses Dempsey. “That older people, both men and women, can build new relationships or start new families and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Whether it’s what women really want, though, he says, “I think what matters more is that they have options to keep asking themselves that question.”
While that seems admirably politically correct — and it should be noted here that Dempsey has declared himself strongly against Trump because of the politician’s “really offensive misogyny” — there’s no denying that Bridget Jones, despite all the slapstick and faux pas, is living the dream.
In Japan, to be a 43-year-old single woman so often means staring at a partner-less old age (or a “wretched life of a singleton” in Bridgetspeak) while worrying over aging parents. The kind of glorious time Bridget has in the movie is a soft-focused, delicious fantasy world and a fluffy respite from the daily grind and anxiety.
Still, imagine a world where a woman is relieved of the effort of constant dieting and having to present her best self, 24-7. Imagine her living life in peace, while still being loved by two gorgeous men who will always make restaurant reservations and park the car. Imagine.
OK, that may not be perfectly politically correct, but the world would be a better place for it.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” (“Bridget Jones no Nikki: Dame na Watashi no Saigo no Moteki”) is now playing at cinemas nationwide.
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