Dear Diary
Me & Ms. Jones
By Rhonda Reeves

"Is Hugh Grant picking up another prostitute?" Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth look on in Bridget.

At moments such as these, one has a choice: to either give up and accept spinsterhood and eventual eating by dogs or not. I choose not... and vodka.

Let me begin by confessing that I'm probably the only single white female thirtysomething left in this country who hasn't read Bridget Jones's Diary. I'm always being TOLD to read it, but then, someone's always telling me to watch Ally McBeal too (and I didn't like it either).

In fact, I rarely like anything programmed for my demographic - again, single white female thirtysomething - which translates on Madison Avenue to "alcoholic spinsters in desperate search of men, babies, and self-help books."

As the press kit for the movie reads, "Bridget seems to provide an unnervingly accurate mirror of the aspirations, confusions and desires (namely to be thin, on-time, sober, sexy, and deeply loved) of single women across the world."

ExCUSE me?!!!!!!!

This was pretty much my (extremely antagonistic) impression of what I'd heard of Bridget Jones going into the movie - which, actually, is pretty entertaining as light, romantic comedies go (far, far, far smarter and sharper than the Ashley Judd vehicle, Someone Like You, which was based on Laura Zigman's very clever Animal Husbandry).

Much has been made of the casting of Renée Zellweger in the part of Bridget (prompting an outcry similar to Tom Cruise being cast in Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, which he neither helped nor hurt, because frankly, the whole project was pretty stupid).

Obviously, they couldn't cast Gwyneth Paltrow - despite her complete mastery of a British accent - because her ribs would've poked right through her emaciated little torso at some point and impaled Hugh Grant or Colin Firth, and that would've been out of character for the rotund Bridget.

Kate Winslet is both British and chunky, but not very funny.

Apparently... that brings us down to... Zellweger. Who's actually perfectly fine for this part. Her accent's fine. She porked up acceptably. And she apparently was willing to go without washing her hair for the entirety of the production.

Because realism in Hollywood's romantic comedies simply means casting a leading lady who's five to ten pounds overweight with hair that's limp to oily (say, Janeane Garofalo, in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, which, as chick-flicks go, is actually pretty great).

So much was made of Zellwegger's quest to gain weight for this role that everyone surely expected her to sashay onto the screen looking like 70s-era Elvis. (This isn't Raging Bull for Chrissake. Who cares?)

It's undeniably hard to get past the movie's basic insulting premise - director Sharon Maguire says, "When Helen [Fielding] began writing about Bridget, it was a time when we were all still partying, having a really good time, all still cracking clever jokes constantly... But underlying it all was this secret anxiety about why we hadn't settled down yet, about why we couldn't get male approval..."

What makes all of this (almost) forgivable, is the genuine sharpness of the dialogue, some real wit, and several laugh-out-loud scenes of both physical and intellectual comedy. It's Bridget's "verbal incontinence" (as Colin Firth's Darcy describes her in an early scene) that makes her so charming and likable.

As Hugh Grant says, by way of a pretty decent rationalization, "[Helen] took a taboo subject - the conundrum of woman today feeling that they've reached some mythical sell-by date - and made it mainstream comic literature." (Big talk coming from a guy busted for getting gummed by a prostitute on a busy California street, while Elizabeth Hurley cooled her jets by the homefires, but hey, that's what makes it REAL.)

All things considered, file this movie where you (probably) filed the book: a guilty pleasure. Because even the most ardent feminist will have a hard time resisting Colin Firth... especially when he... talks dirty. (Rowwwrrrr!)

Come on. I'm not made of WOOD here, people!!