film fatales #12: the gleaners & i (agnès varda, 2000)
film fatales #13: bridget jones's diary (sharon maguire, 2001)

music friday: "all by myself"

Some filmmakers are better than others at using popular music in their movies ... thinking Scorsese and Mean Streets. Some reject the idea of a soundtrack, and many movies feature original soundtracks of mostly lyric-free music.

Once in awhile, the connection between song and music becomes unbreakable. You hear “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you think Wayne’s World. (This doesn’t happen with Mean Streets, which features too many great songs to force any one of them into our brains solely as Mean Street Music.)

In the mid-1990s, English novelist Helen Fielding began writing a serialized newspaper column about a single woman in her 30s working her way through life in London. This column was popular enough for Fielding to construct a novel from them, called Bridget Jones’s Diary. Fielding’s work was compared to Nick Hornby’s, the chick lit to his lad lit. Her book was popular enough to elicit a sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which wasn’t as good, although it had its moments.

Next up was a film version of Diary. This movie, starring Renée Zellweger as Bridget, was eagerly anticipated by fans of the book, although British fans were upset that an American was playing the English icon. (Zellweger was excellent, grabbing a Best Actress Oscar nomination.) The question was, could the movie capture the blend of self-awareness and humorous honesty that made the book a good read.

I just watched Bridget Jones’s Diary ... I think for the third time ... because it celebrated its 15th anniversary this week. It still holds up as an example of a good rom-com. But watching it for a third time, fifteen years after the fact, can’t duplicate the feeling of sitting in the theater in 2001, waiting for the movie to start, hoping it would be good.

The movie began with a voiceover, which effectively emulated the diary structure of the book. After five minutes or so, the credits sequence began. And even though it seemed obvious the minute it happened, it was also perfect, so perfect that I’ve never been able to hear this song without thinking of Bridget Jones:

That version was sung by Jamie O’Neal. Here is Eric Carmen’s original:

And, what the heck, one of the most honest songs ever written:

I just want a hit record, yeah
Wanna hear it on the radio
Want a big hit record, yeah
One that everybody's got to know


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