Cf il/rl li/ BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (15) 96 mins 0...

Literary adaptations always skate on thin ice, thanks to the audience’s preconceived notions about every last detail, and adapting a widely-loved bestseller can only lead to more pitfalls. However, Bridget Jones ’5 Diary is that rare thing, like Trainspotting, an adaptation that vastly improves on an over-rated original.

The plot is likely to be familiar to most. Jones has a rather nice job, and looks rather nice, but worries a lot about her appearance and career. ln-between weighing herself and ranting with her chums about the emotional fuckwittage inflicted on them by the modern male, she entangles herself with nasty boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), before

.0... Excellent .00. Good 0..

~ Quirks, ..

Rare thing: an adaptation improving upon an over-rated original

taking up with the seemingly dull Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), after realising he is actually a dashing,

manly and sensitive type.

On paper, Jones was a snivelling, neurotic wreck, on film she’s a snivelling, neurotic wreck who also happens to be consistently hilarious. This is thanks to some judicious trimming to squeeze Helen Fielding’s flabby compilation of columns into a neat rom-com running time, adding a dash of daft slapstick along the way, and a decent performance from Renee Zellweger. The controversialIy-cast American has, thankfully, mastered the almost-posh diction required, and possesses a fine repertoire of peculiar, hamsterish facial ticks and grimaces that suit the character’s ditsy storm in a teacup crises to a T. Contrary to reports, she’s hardly fat, but looks un-Hollywood enough to pass for a disorganised publisher‘s assistant from the Home Counties, and adds a touch of warmth to what is essentially a wholly unsympathetic, brittle character.

Zellweger doesn’t carry the film, though. Firth is clearly enjoying himself, given the fact that he mainly has to smoulder and generally be an awfully good bloke, and, in a nifty bit of cross-referential casting, has ended up playing a character who, in the original, is compared to himself. It is Hugh Grant, however, who steals the show. He still relies on the daft, dandyish little boy lost schtick, but has managed to add a touch of sordid rakishness, and a thoroughly louche edge to the now familiar daft toff role he’s relied upon for so long.

Having been a diverting column and a pretty duff novel, the Bridget Jones phenomenon has finally found it’s feet in the cinema. The film should go down a storm with already avowed Jones devotees, and, better yet, will come as a surprise to those who dismissed the whole phenomenon in previous

incarnations. (Jack Mottram)

I Gene/a/ release from / /r t Apr.

Intriguing spin on Brosnan’s Bond persona



(15) 109 mins 00.

The names Osnard . . Andi. Osnaid. No. rt doesn't hate guite the same ring. does it. But though Pierce Brosnan's British secret agent Osnard is rio‘.'.'her‘e near as sleek as his Bond. the.

are ver\ much brothers under the

skin. Like Bond. Osnard. the anti hero of John Boorman's black comedy based on John Le Carre's spy novel. is a ruthless set‘lucer. Unlike his resoluleh patriotic counterpart. hot-.exer. he's also unashameti’h self—

seekrng. When the filn‘ opens. he

has alread\ blotted his (‘opxhodk

and been banished to Panama. But he sees a way to turn his new posting to his advantage by exploiting British and American paranoia about the fate of the strategically vital canal now that it 2:: in l’ariarrtanran hands.

lo this erid he recruits cockney ex-corr turned bespoke tailor Har'r‘. Pendel. Geoffrey Rush's Ham. rs a selfrnxented man who has \.'.r"‘.<‘.') a Sax'rlle Rev. past for hrrr‘self. canning the hand of a canal engineer's highly eligible daughter Jaime Lee Curtrsr in the process. But he is currently deeply in debt. Putting his sttir\.tt‘:llrrrg skills to the use of Osnard's spr. game may enable fillt‘ to re\.r\. e his fortunes

(compare hrs fellow tale—spinner. the vacuum cleaner-salesman- cum~spy hero of Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana). It's a risky strategy. however. and rt threatens the happiness of hrs marriage and the safety of his employee Marta (Leonor Varela) and friend Mickie (Brendan Gleesonr. both scarred veterans of the anti-Noriega resrstance. Like his protagonists. director and co-writer Boorrnan treads a thrn line between success and failure. He doesn't entirer pull rt off. The film's pacrng rs uncertain and the ending apparently r'eshot after t‘lrsappOinting test screenings is a mess. But the film's central relationship rs intriguing. Rush's Harry, hrs conscience prrcked by the imaginary figure of hrs late mentor. ‘Uncle Benny' (an enjoyable cameo from Harold Pinter). is an essentially decent man - despite hrs slippery evaSrons and inventions. He's an admirable forl to Brosnan's corrupt Osnard. whose Bond-like attributes are exaggerated untrl they appear nasty like a smile that turns ugly when it's held too long. (Jason Bestr I General re/ease from Fri 20 Apr


Average .0 Flawed O Poor

THRILLEH TI-IE CONTENDER (15) 126 mins .00

Clinton's era iria\ he oxer, his legam little more than the niemen. or political inertia and personal sleaze. but already. liberal screenvarter s for big and small screens ha\e been recastrng his presidency as \xrsh fulfilment fantasy On TV there's We ll/es.‘ l‘.’r7g with Martin Sheen's rn‘possrhh sarnth president and hrs whip smart. rrroralh scrupulous staff. Nov» vie hau- Trre (ionic/trim. ‘.‘.‘llit‘l director Rod Lurre's dream \t‘lSlOl) of a Democratic preSrdency.

The title character. Joan Allen's Democratic senator Laine Hanson. is every bit as high-minded as The West living team. She's opposed to the death penalty. pro choice, and an athrest. (Dream on. As if anyone professing those beliefs could even he elected as a dog catcher in most US states.) We first see her, however. engaged in exuberant sex atop her work desk alhert. we then discover, With her husband. But her sexuality is targeted by her political enemies when Presrdent Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) chooses her to succeed the recently deceased Vice—president.

'We have to gut the bitch in the belly.’ declares one of Hanson's opponents. a rrghtwrng cabal led by Gary Oldman's foul-mouthed. devrous congressman Shelly Runyon. He plans to block the appointment by disclosing photographs that

Effective political thriller

apparently show Hanson in a college gang-bang. But Hanson declares her private life off-limits. refusing to dignity the allegations With a denial. Will her prrncrpled stance scupper her political ambitions?

The Contender ultimater affirms the same liberal preties as The West Wing. but it's not nearly so insufferany smug. Bridges PreSident at first comes across as a harnmy eccentric. but the quirky exterior conceals a sharp political operator. And he appears to be driven less by convrctron than by a desire to secure his place in history. These notes of Cyanism are rare. however. Lurie. it seems. like The West Wing's creators. hasn't found a way of making committed liberal drama wrthout descendrng into sanctimony. Accept The Contender as a fantasy. though. and rt works effectively as a political thriller. even if the requirements of keeping the audience in suspense means that Allen's character has to remain inscrutable for far too long. (Jason Best)

I Genera/ release from Fri 20 Apr.

12-26 Apr 2031 THE LIST 25