Before Chick-lit, there was Mary Gaitskill's novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin. My graduate school conspiritors/comrades and I always held this book up contemptuously as one of those books where women sit in the bathtub (no bubbles) and contemplate their thighs (the shape) and feel dreary. That may or may not have actually happened in the text. I may or may not be unfairly remembering this novel as one characterized by half-drawn curtains. I do think that this book is what Chick-lit was, before Chick-lit realized it would be better if books about women didn't make readers want to drink poison. That maybe comedy would occasionally be nice. Anyway, the title of this book has stuck in my mind, across the long merry years, and it's what I was thinking of this week as I watched Renee Zellwegger first in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and then in Miss Potter.
Bridget Jones was a screaming nightmare from start to finish. Not funny, nonsensical, and hard to watch. Everyone played their characters so firmly and purposefully and dutifully that we ended up with a Bridget too ruddy, too shiny, too stiff, a Colin Firth with too giant a brick up his too pearly ass, and a Hugh Grant aping across the screen as such an unredeemable playboy, my arms fell off. Nothing good. Particularly nothing good about Renee Zellwegger's complexion. It'll put your eye out. If you're seeking a really exhaustive collection of unflattering necklines, this movie is a must-see. Otherwise, skip. If you haven't already. Which I had. Until now.
Miss Potter, on the other hand, was a mild delight. Ewan MacGregor was freshfaced and bouncy. Renee Zellwegger wore those long heavy skirts like in Cold Mountain. And Emily Watson, who I have relentlessly loathed, ever since she spent all of Breaking the Waves running around in Scotland crying, "JAN, JAN" and biting her lower lip, was actually fantastic. I almost forgive her all that Scottish snivelling. Yeah maybe it wasn't Scotland. Whatever. In this movie, she was kind of horse-boned and likeable. The movie was nearly great -- of course I did *want* to like it, so I may be feeling generous in my response to it, but I really feel like at times it was piercingly beautiful, and really fell through a thousand meanings at once. Not the whole time. But some of the time.