Lightweight, comedic performances always tend to be overlooked by the Academy, and I guess that’s what makes nominations like Renée Zellweger’s performance in Bridget Jones’s Diary so unique. I don’t think she had a strong chance of winning that year as the race seemed to be dominated by the powerful dramatic performances by Halle Berry and Sissy Spacek. Still, this nomination is absolutely deserved.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is a guilty pleasure. I find this movie absolutely hilarious, despite it being a fairly standard rom-com. The characters are all very likable despite how unlikable they are, and I think it is a movie that is filled with heart. Hugh Grant and (especially) Colin Firth also give charming performances despite how terrible and mean their characters can be at times. And yet, the main thing that transforms this movie from a forgettable rom-com to a classic is due to Renée Zellweger’s wonderful performance as Bridget Jones.
Bridget Jones is a difficult part to play, imo. She isn’t a complex character with heavy dramatic scenes, but at the same time, it is very easy to mishandle the part and turn her into an idiotic and cartoonish klutz. Zellweger avoids this misstep by giving Bridget heart, making her totally relatable and sympathetic in her awkwardness. She is also entirely natural in her approach, letting the comedic elements of the performance flow naturally. I mean, can you imagine Anne Hathaway playing this in her usual over-eager style? It would have been absolutely cringe inducing. Zellweger strikes a fine balance between never taking the character too seriously and making her come to life.
Essentially, the bulk of the performance is really just Bridget making a fool of herself again and again. Amazingly, it never becomes exhausting to watch because Zellweger is just simply damn funny. I can just watch that silly “tits pervert” speech over and over again thanks to her perfect comic timing, and that fireman pole scene is probably the only butt joke I’ve ever laughed at. Zellweger is just so awkward but lovable in her clumsiness that I never tire from watching her.
She also makes you root for Bridget and throughout the whole movie and you want to see her find the happiness she is looking for. I mean, her expression at when she realises that she has been cheated on is so heartbreaking to watch. Like what Mark Darcy says, Bridget isn’t an idiot, just an awkward person with a heart of gold whom we like just as she is.
There isn’t much for me to write about this performance, and yet she left a deep impression in my mind. I found myself rewatching clips like the “wanton sex goddess” line and her office email “flirtations” because of how funny they are. It is not Annie Hall brilliance, but I think it is worth of 4/5, leaning towards 4.5.