Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth cuddle up in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'.

Forget ‘Love Actually’: This British Romcom Is My Christmas Must-Watch

I’ll be honest: I hate Richard Curtis’ 2003 blockbuster romantic comedy Love Actually. From its over-reliance on fat jokes to its one-dimensional women characters (except for the glorious Emma Thompson, who couldn’t turn in a bad performance if her life depended on it), the movie just plain does not work for me. As Lindy West wrote in her epic Love Actually takedown “I Rewatched Love Actually and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You” on Jezebel, the film is “the apex of cynically vacant faux-motional cash-grab garbage cinema.”

Recommended Videos

And yet every year, here we are with endless reruns and revisits of this 2003 Christmas ensemble. Ironically, Richard Curtis also co-wrote one of my favorite British Christmas classics: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Based on Helen Fielding’s smash hit 1996 novel, BJD is a modern take on Jane Austen’s iconic Pride and Prejudice. And it’s got everything you want out of a cozy Christmas classic: wintry London scenery, hideous Christmas sweaters, and Colin Firth channeling his BBC Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy to great effect.

So what makes BJD such a great watch? For starters, it’s anchored by a terrific performance from Renée Zellweger that is filled with humor, cringe, and plenty of heart. Bridget is an endlessly relatable character, an everywoman who struggles with flaws but remains a loving and loyal friend and family member. And while much is made of her weight (Zellweger gained 20 lbs for the role), most of it comes from Bridget’s inner narration and insecurity. Despite being curvy, she still pulls gorgeous men like Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver and Firth’s Mark Darcy. Like so many women, Bridget is endlessly judging herself.

And let’s go back to Hugh Grant for a moment. Before his caddish turn as Daniel, Grant was the epitome of an English soft boy. A rom-com staple thanks to films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill (both Richard Curtis films), Grant’s bumbling romantic schtick was his stock-in-trade. BJD changed this by casting him against type. It turned out that Grant was so good at playing bad, that he would return to these kinds of characters throughout his career.

Bridget Jones’s Diary also succeeds because it employs something most modern rom-coms lack: actual chemistry between its stars. Zellweger has terrific romantic chemistry with both Grant and Firth, and the film capitalizes on the simmering tension between its characters.

And did I mention it’s funny? Director Sharon Maguire capitalizes on the novel’s raucous sense of humor, landing solid jokes that never punch down. From Bridget’s foibles at work to her hilarious friend group, the comedy is never lacking. The comedy works hand in hand with the film’s emotional beats, delightfully grounding them. One of my favorite scenes is Bridget’s dinner party, where she serves a series of terrible dishes. The cast is clearly having fun with the scene, and it’s warm and hilarious.

And that’s really the vibe of Bridget Jones’s Diary: warm, silly, and wonderfully romantic. So instead of watching Love Actually yet again, give this great film a watch. But maybe skip the sequels.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.