Movie Marketing Madness: Bridget Jones’s Baby
Bridget Jones was kind of a cultural phenomenon back around the turn of the millennium, first when the original book came out then when it was translated into a film starring Renee Zellweger. The story, a loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, wasn’t complex and certainly raised lots of questions about what constitutes being a feminist and what an empowered woman actually looked like. The first two movies, the original and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, were based on books by Helen Fielding and featured Jones going through all kinds of problems related to balancing career and romance.
Now it’s time for the next phase of life in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Zellweger is back as Jones, who is once again single having found that storybook romances don’t always last. The story begins as, on consecutive days, she has one-night stands with her ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), an American she has just met. Jones finds herself pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is because of the circumstances surrounding conception. So a comedy of manners commences as the investigation into the father’s identity begins and Jones has to figure out what that means for her love life at the same time.
The first teaser poster is pretty basic Zellweger is shown in the same style as the one-sheets for the previous movie, only this time her face is obscured by a pair of stretchy pants she’s holding up. Above her in the whitespace is the copy “We’re going to need bigger pants.” It’s not all that original or visually interesting, but it gets the point across that a new Bridget Jones movie is coming out, so missing accomplished.
A handful of character posters made sure we were familiar with all the characters. Each one not only sports a massive picture of the actor’s heads but their character is given a helpful, simple description. So Darcy is the “Old flame,” Qwant is the “New Fling” and Jones herself is the “Big Problem.”
The theatrical poster uses the same layout as the one-sheets for the two previous movies, with Jones in the middle sporting a surprised or shocked expression as the two guys, in this case Darcy and Qwant, throw a little sideeye at each other behind her.
The first trailer debuted on “Ellen” and throws the viewer a curve by starting out with a fantasy sequence of Bridget’s wedding that quickly gives way to her still-single life. It’s alright, though, since things are going well for her otherwise. We get a meet-cute with a new guy and then find out she’s pregnant, though she doesn’t know who the father is. That leads to some uncomfortable situations, including an ultrasound with both of the potential candidates.
Yeah…alright. It’s cute and everything and is designed to appeal to the fans of the first two movies, but…hasn’t the conversation about female empowerment and gender roles evolved a LOT since the last one? I feel like we’re still in 2004 here and the cliches of the character were a bit hoary even then.
The first full trailer sets up the premise of the story, which is that Bridget has recently slept with two different guys, a current boyfriend and her ex. When she winds up pregnant and doesn’t know which one it is it sets off a bit of baby-daddy drama as they go through all the stages of the pregnancy as a threesome, from lamaze classes to the actual delivery.
I’m….not sure what to make of this. Most of the humor is apparently going to come from the uncomfortable situations the two guys are forced to endure, with Bridget seemingly fretting over the unknown while also making them jump through hoops that seem unnecessary. I’m sure there will be a reason why a paternity test isn’t an option that’s explained in the movie, but it’s not here and it’s noticeable.
Online and Social
There’s not a whole lot going on on the movie’s official website. The front page of the site features full-motion video in the background, with a big “Buy Tickets” button toward the bottom of the page. In the upper right corner are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
The “About” section has a decent synopsis of the story that catches us up with where the characters are at this point, over a decade after we last saw them. Then the “Trailer” section just has the theatrical trailer. Finally, there’s a “Photos” gallery that has about a half-dozen production stills.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising took a variety of approaches to selling the movie but never drifted too far from the central theme. So some played up the rivalry between Jack and Mark a bit more, some focus more on the scenes with Emma Thompson’s doctor, but all play up the awkwardness of the situation and the way Bridget deals with it.
Online ads used the key art to drive people to buy tickets or watch the trailer. And I’m sure there was a bit of outdoor advertising done that also featured Zellweger.
Media and Publicity
The first publicity beat for the movie was the release of an official still which showed Jones clutching not a baby but an iPad, which seemed oddly appropriate. Months later it got an Entertainment Weekly cover and feature package that caught the audience up with where the characters are years after the last movie and introduced new characters like the one played by Dempsey.
Unfortunately there was a bit of a dust-up around Zellweger’s looks. That started with an Owen Gleiberman Variety op-ed where he took issue with her appearance, basically wondering whether she’d undergone so much work that she was now a completely different person. The piece, and the opinion itself, gleefully overlooks the amount of pressure women are under to maintain an appearance that men just aren’t. Zellweger later responded with an op-ed of her own saying she wasn’t going to wait around for a male gaze to validate her and blaming the tabloid culture of speculation on who’s had what kind of nips and tucks made.
Zellweger, in a nice cover story in The Hollywood Reporter, kept talking about the unfortunate obsession in the media with looks and appearance, her brief time off from acting and more. Dempsey and Firth were both interviewed here and talked about how they approached the roles, with Firth saying he didn’t want to trod over old story ground but bring something new and Dempsey relating how he’s the unknown variable in the story, the one who’s not doing what anyone might expect. And another big feature on Zellweger continued focusing on her extended absence from the big screen along with the conversations around her appearance and other familiar themes.
Dempsey and Zellweger also made various appearances on talk shows as well as on online series to talk about jumping into the series and returning to the character, respectively.
What I find interesting about the campaign is that it actually feels a lot more genuine than the campaigns for some of the other franchises and series that have returned this year after 10+ years away. Maybe that’s a byproduct of this being a smaller movie than, say, Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s more personal and emotional as opposed to just trying to up the ante and make the special effects bigger than the last time out, which is the usual way these dormant series revivals are usually sold.
The question that remains is whether Jones, who was such a touchstone of early, somewhat aimless singles 25 years ago can connect once again with the audiences that made her a popular character back then. Or if there is a new audience who will pick this up as their entry into the franchise. There’s a funny, potentially sweet movie being sold here but I’m just not sure if that will be enough to bring people in or if Jones as a character is no longer relevant to the cultural conversation.
Originally published at christhilk.com on September 13, 2016.