Today sees the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, the latest installment of the Bridget Jones Cinematic Universe. As in the previous editions — 2001’s Diary and 2004’s The Edge of Reason — Baby sees our Bridge torn between two very different men, either of whom could be the father of the eponymous infant. There’s Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), of course, the stiff-lipped human-rights lawyer whose demeanor runs the gamut between reserved and aloof, and there’s the improbably named Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), an American dating-site billionaire who loves algorithms almost as much as he loves buttoning his shirts to the very top. Early on, Bridget refuses the amniocentesis that would let her figure out which man impregnated her, and so the identity of the true father isn’t revealed until the last scene of the film, where we learn …
Spoilers for Bridget Jones’s Baby below!
Okay, so: It’s clear early on that Bridget is not going to end up with Jack. He’s sketched so broadly that he’s barely a character, and Dempsey in his initial scenes gives what can only be called a terrible performance. But for most of the second half, the plot seems to be moving toward one particular resolution: Bridget is going to end up with Mark Darcy, whose coldness about the two-dads situation seems to be an obvious case of jealousy, but the biological father is going to be Jack, who is 110 percent into the whole baby thing. That way everybody gets an arc, and we the audience learn a sweet lesson about the nature of family in the 21st century.
Up to and including the penultimate scene of the movie, that’s how it looks like things will shake out. After the kid’s born, we flash forward to Bridget and Mark’s wedding, where Jack is standing in the front row. He’s holding the baby and beaming, looking every inch the happy dad. Except, not two minutes later, Mark asks Jack to “give me back my son.”
Mark is the father!? (Oh yeah, and the baby’s a boy. He’s pretty cute.)
It’s an odd twist, and it seems to come out of nowhere. Was it added purely for shock factor — or was the shadowy hand of outside interference at work? Evidence in favor of the latter theory comes in another scene, about halfway through the film. While discussing the baby’s big feet, Bridget’s father (Jim Broadbent) mentions that Bridge has inherited his own exceptionally small feet. At first, this seems like a clue: Could the film subtly investigate which of the suitors gave the baby its big-footed genes? But no — the foot-size conversation simply gets tabled, and it never comes up again.
What gives? Did some executive decide that, if Mark Darcy is Bridget’s soul mate, he damn well must also be the dispenser of the champion sperm? Did test audiences hate an ending where Dempsey was the father, and all the foot-related shenanigans that preceded it? And if he’s not the dad, why do they let Jack hold the kid at the wedding? Is that the normal consolation prize for dudes who find out they’re not the father?
Regardless of what really happened (and yes, I’m prepared to go full truther) the movie’s current ending muddles the narrative. Over the course of the film, Mark Darcy is forced to come to terms with what it would mean to love Bridget even while she’s pregnant with another man’s child. It’s a gripping emotional journey, and it’s undercut completely by the twist at the end: Turns out Mark doesn’t need to work on his jealousy at all. There’s also a weird whiff of social conservatism that seems surprising in a film where Bridget invigorates her mother’s political career by convincing her to become the candidate of gays, immigrants, and single moms. After a film’s worth of lip service to the idea that a family can be whatever you want it to be, the happy ending for Bridget and Mark is still a traditional, biological nuclear family.