Sharon Maguire's pale and wan visualization of the unfunny non-novel by Helen Fielding, about the plight of the average, over-thirty, ever so slightly overweight, overdrinking, and oversmoking "singleton" woman in a world -- or in a United Kingdom, at least -- of male "fuckwits." Attempts to punch up the humor to big-screen proportions are totally wasted, although the actual fisticuffs that erupt (not in the book) between romantic rivals give us a good, disapproving, deglamorizing feminine viewpoint on this masculine pastime -- up until the hackneyed slow-motion crash through a plate-glass window. The rivalry demands no compromise on the part of the heroine, inasmuch as nice-guy Colin Firth is taller, arguably better looking, financially better off, not to mention an all-around better human being (i.e., professional humanitarian), than shitheel Hugh Grant; and he even turns out, against first impressions of Heathcliffian gloom, to have a better sense of humor in the bargain. The character's name of Darcy, furthermore, drops a heavy hint, to the literate, of the Jane Austen fairy-tale destination. One can see why the book, paddling around as it was in a pool of common sentiments, might have rallied the troops. The boiling-off of many of those sentiments on screen, however, tends to expose the thinness of the incidents. We appear to be witness to the entirety of the relationship between the heroine and Darcy, and honestly there's not much to it. Which leaves the troops with less to rally round. Excepting, of course, Renée Zellweger (plus a few extra pounds, nowhere near Raging De Niro numbers), a very "revealing" actress, sending out second-by-second updates on the least little fluctuation of the emotional weather vane, expertly orchestrating the audience response. She prevents the character from becoming a generalized spokesperson for "singletons," and corners our sympathies for herself alone. With Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent. (2001) — Duncan Shepherd
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