The romantic comedy, while far from the most prestigious genre of film, is certainly one of the most culturally important. Movies in this genre may be called disparaging names such as “chick flicks,” scoffed at by the greater world of cinema, and ignored at every award ceremony ever made, but they are talked about decade after decade. However, among these comedies, one film stands out as the pinnacle of the rom–com, the paragon of everything that these movies are about: Bridget Jones’ Diary.
See, while Bridget Jones is certainly unique, it has an utterly normal premise. If you have somehow reached college age without seeing or at least hearing of Bridget Jones, the plot is simple—a clumsy girl, the eponymous Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), gets caught in a love triangle between two rather handsome men, a wealthy friend of her family (Colin Firth) and her arrogant boss (Hugh Grant).
Much of Bridget Jones centers around the titular character's navigation through life. As the title suggests, the movie follows a diary format, which allows for her clever monologues to play over various scenes. She narrates with snarky comments about her tragic state of affairs, which mostly includes how her family keeps on asking about her nonexistent boyfriend. She meets Mark Darcy (Firth) at a family party, during which she makes a fool of herself. Afterwards, Darcy goes off and calls her "a verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and dresses like her mother." She flirts with Daniel Cleaver (Grant) at work, despite their vaguely antagonistic relationship, which somehow ends up with them dating. Eventually, her relationship with Darcy advances, and she ends up juggling the two of them at once, running into them at various inconvenient points, and embarrassing herself greatly throughout.
But what makes Bridget Jones so good? Firstly, it's an amazing adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is undoubtedly one of the most romantic works of all time. Despite its clearly dated source material, the adaptation updates the storyline to the present day. She is a single, 32–year—old woman whose New Year’s resolution is to stop drinking and smoking, which she proclaims while holding a cigarette and a mimosa.
Despite its Austenian plot, Bridget Jones also does a lovely job of taking reinvigorating classic tropes. Darcy and Cleaver may seem like the unwavering, one–bit male figures of rom–coms past, but they're clearly flawed. Cleaver is a jerk who might have a heart of gold and Darcy is first seen wearing an ugly reindeer sweater when he's supposed to be a no–nonsense human rights barrister. While fights over women’s affections are often seen as noble battles for love, their fistfight is nothing but ridiculous, complete with falling into a fountain.
But at the heart of Bridget Jones is Bridget herself, perhaps the most perfect main character of any rom–com ever made. She is graceless, often humiliating, good at her job but far from perfect. She has an outdated and clingy mother, an embarrassing family, and a desire to do well. She's not drop–dead gorgeous, impossibly skinny, or very good at navigating her love life—all of this to say that Bridget is relatable, and not in the false way that many romantic leads are where they claim they're ugly while being classically gorgeous. Bridget is unwavering in who she is, and hopes to be loved for being herself, rather than changing who she is.
On that point, most perfect is that Bridget does not transform into an entirely new person by the end of the three–film trilogy. She doesn't suddenly become skinny or graceful. She grows yet remains authentic. Bridget Jones presents the rare message that you do not need to change for the person that you love, and perhaps that's why the movies sits squarely in the rom–com canon. While its cast is perfection, its plot utterly gripping, and its comedy modern and quirky, most important is the message of self–acceptance, as delivered by one of the most famous quotes from Mark Darcy: “I like you very much—just as you are.”