“The Sense of an Ending”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

As we age, our minds become selective in choosing which memories to remember and which ones to forget. The human tendency to edit out things in our past that we’d rather erase from our personal history is the core theme in “The Sense of an Ending,” the film adaptation of the novel by Julian Barnes . Director Ritesh Batra (who made “The Lunchbox,” clocking in at #3 on my list of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2014) has created a thoughtful contemplation on the passage of time and youthful regret.

The film is anchored by a strong performance from Jim Broadbent as Tony and the perfect pairing with Harriet Walter as his ex-wife, Margaret. Their relationship feels so natural onscreen that you’ll swear they were once married in real life. (How lovely it is to see Broadbent step into a leading role, and one that seems tailor-made for him).

The film jumps back in forth in time as Tony begins to recount his flawed recollections of his teenage self (played by Billy Howle) and his first love Veronica (played as a young woman by Freya Mavor and in present day by Charlotte Rampling). Soon we realize that Tony is an unreliable narrator, as the truth about his deeply buried secrets slowly come to light.

This is a beautifully nuanced story that’s contemplative but never boring, yet the final reveal of the big mystery is disappointing because there’s not much of one. The slightly ambiguous story can be like a frustrating puzzle at times, with a gradual unveiling of an open-to-interpretation ending that, well, doesn’t really give you a sense of one.

“Bridget Jones’s Baby”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS MATT: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I was skeptical about reviewing “Bridget Jones’s Baby” because it seemed like it would be another obnoxious R-rated ode to mommyhood like the lazy “Bad Moms,” an unwelcome sequel that, twelve years later, would run the characters into the ground and stomp on all that was good about the series. Everything about this movie sounded simply awful (guess I’m not alone in this perception because there was nobody else in the theater). I’m happy to report that the movie is not only good but it stays loyal and true to the characters that we all love.

In this third installment, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) finds herself celebrating her 43rd birthday alone and refers to herself as a “spinster.” She’s surrounded at work by thirtysomethings and her dear friends are too busy to hang out because they have all become parents. When surprised with a trip to a music festival by younger friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani), Bridget meets handsome and chivalrous stranger Jack (Patrick Dempsey) and has a one night stand. A few days later, she runs into her lovably uptight ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and the two have “similar relations.” Soon Bridget has a big surprise on her hands — she’s pregnant — and she has no idea which man is the father.

There’s quite a bit of funny material and I laughed out loud (and for extended periods of time) more than I can count. This isn’t mom-centric humor either, it’s something everyone can enjoy. There’s barely any sappiness in the story (which I appreciated). Instead of going the dreaded ‘wow aren’t babies a miracle‘ route, the film focuses on Bridget still living and loving life while going back and forth on which fella she wants to be the daddy. Not everything is as funny as it attempts to be, but there are two particularly amusing supporting performances from Gemma Jones as Bridget’s slightly clueless mom and Emma Thompson (who knew she had such impeccable comic timing?) as an OBGYN.

Mixed in with the laughs is a truly charming and wildly romantic story. Jim Broadbent has only a few minor scenes as Bridget’s dad but they are authentic and genuinely touching. The three leads have tremendous chemistry, with Firth and Dempsey particularly playing well off each other as romantic rivals with contrasting personalities. Each guy has his own flaws as well as strengths, and there’s no doubt you’ll be rooting for one man over the other (of course I’m on Team Darcy). And not to worry, in the end the film does answer the big question.

Seeing Bridget again after all these years feels like running into an old friend, and much like its titular character, the film is good-natured, slightly clumsy, and simply delightful. Welcome back, Bridget.

MATT SAYS:

Bridget (Renee Zellweger), Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Mum (Gemma Jones), Dad (Jim Broadbent) and Bridget’s friends are all back twelve years later for “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”

Bridget is a successful television news producer in her early forties who is (to her frustration) still single. Her friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) urges Bridget to join her on a quick getaway where she hooks up with bachelor Jack (Patrick Dempsey). Soon thereafter, she gets back together for a night with her former flame Mark. Much to her surprise, she becomes pregnant but learns that either of the two men could be the father. Both vying for Bridget’s affections, Mark and Jack become ultra-competitive with one another as they work to remain involved in her pregnancy.

While not as charming as the first movie in this series, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” at least feels authentic and true to the character — unlike the tonally odd and slightly unpleasant sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” Consequently, it works well as a fairly standard love triangle rom-com featuring characters that you remember fondly. It’s pretty funny, too, at least during the first act. While the plot weighs down the second and third acts, it remains just pleasant, light, and truthful enough to be entertaining. While it can, at times, feel a little too referential to the first film — not only with dialogue but with some out-and-out flashback sequences — it never feels desperate. This is its own story, and it’s a fairly enjoyable one at that.

Thirty- and forty-something fans of the character and the first film will probably enjoy this one, too. I liked it well enough to mildly recommend.

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