Bridget Jones' Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary versus Four Christmases: 2 Stylist writers battle it out over their favourite festive film

Posted by for Film

Christmas movies are a time-honoured tradition to be enjoyed every year, without fail. But which one is your ultimate favourite? Here’s what happened when the question was posed to two Stylist writers.

Each year, we all get lost in the magic of Christmas and a major part of the enjoyment of the holidays comes with the vast number of films we get to watch.

Now, more than ever, it seems like there’s a plethora of Christmas movie goodness to get our hands on: Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have us all spoilt for choice.

The big question is, though, which one is your ultimate favourite? The one you look forward to watching the most, that you need to watch every year to feel appropriately festive. The one, if asked, you would defend in a very (not) serious Christmas film face-off?

Christmas movies are big business, especially in the sentimental stakes, and a well-loved classic has been pitted against the a relatively modern comedy here at Stylist HQ. As Christobel Hastings, Stylist’s entertainment editor, and Morgan Cormack, Stylist’s digital entertainment writer, reveal – Christmas movies are, at the heart of it, all about making us smile.

Read ahead to find out what makes Bridget Jones’s Diary and Four Christmases so special. 

Four Christmases

Defended by Morgan Cormack, digital entertainment writer

Now, I should start by stating that I feel like I came to the Christmas film bandwagon rather late in my life. For some strange reason, as a young child, I was more preoccupied with gearing up for the Eastenders Christmas special rather than rushing to watch Christmas movie classics. I’ve always been more of a TV series kind of person, rather than a film fanatic - I know, I know, shocking to admit as an entertainment writer.

So when my sister and I started our Christmas movie watching tradition a few years back, I was bowled over by how much I enjoyed the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from snuggling down to watch a festive film. After a while, though, it’s all a little recognisable, isn’t it? You start to guess the premises, where the plotline is going and who will likely end up with who.

That’s why I enjoyed Four Christmases the first time I watched it and what has drawn me back to rewatching it every year since.

The 2008 romantic comedy is hilarious, relatable and puts all those difficult (and all-too-familiar) family dynamics on show for us all to laugh about. Everyone’s favourite actor Reese Witherspoon stars as Kate, alongside Vince Vaughn (who admittedly, is not my favourite but in this, he’s good) as Brad. The upscale couple enjoy nothing more than going on flashy date nights, relaxing in their modern apartment and going to dance classes. 

Four Christmases
Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn star in Four Christmases.

They’re the embodiment of “treat yourself” and so, rather than face each of their divorced parents over Christmas, they created the perfect annual escape plan: to go on a couple’s holiday instead. They tell their families that they’re doing charity work, which is morally questionable, but their karma comes back to bite them when, arriving at the airport, they find out that fog has brought all flights to a standstill – including their plane to Fiji.

One of the brilliant moments of the film comes when the news crew filming at the airport interviews the distressed couple, thereby notifying their respective families (on national TV) that they’ll actually be home for Christmas.

What follows is a round trip for, you guessed it, four different Christmases. As well as Brad’s wrestler brothers Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw), Kate also has to contend with a family of female cougars (including Mary Steenburgen and Kristen Chenoweth) and her childhood fear of bouncy castles. The couple, who initially thought they knew everything about one another, soon find out that they’ve both kept secrets about their families. 

Having always held onto the belief that marriage and children end in divorce and misery, the movie follows the pair on the riotous journey to figuring out what they want from their own futures.

If I’d listened to online reviews that have pretty much slated the movie, my sister and I would have never got round to watching it and this slice of comedic relief is what we all need at peak Christmas time anyway. Four Christmases is not the kind of movie that screams “festive feels” on the face of it but it’s a modern, lighthearted take on the genre and has a family-orientated message at the heart of it. 

It’ll also certainly make you laugh and that’s what Christmas should be all about anyway, right? 

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Defended by Christobel Hastings, entertainment editor

Over the past few years, there has been much talk about the complicated legacy of Bridget Jones’s Diary. There’s the constant calorie counting and references to weight loss, pervasive sexual harassment and treatment of ‘singletons’ as social pariahs, and plenty more besides. These days, many of the jokes we laughed at when the film hit the big screen are completely cringeworthy, and most of us labour under no illusion that they would pass in a film made in 2021.

And yet, Bridget Jones’s Diary remains one of the most successful romcoms of all time, and it says something about Helen Fielding’s beloved character that she still resonates so strongly with women nearly two decades after Bridget first wandered onto our screens with her knickers tucked into her skirt.

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Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary

Needless to say, I very much consider myself a Bridget Jones fan, and to me, it never feels like Christmas without watching a re-run with my Mum and sister. Just the sight of Bridget swigging a glass of wine in her cosy penguin print pyjamas and screeching along to All By Myself in the opening credits is to me, what nostalgia feels like. I can’t even remember when we started the tradition of watching Bridget Jones’ Diary – but every year, we circle it in red on the TV guide, and if we ever come across it randomly while flicking through the channels, it has to stay on the small screen.

While the familiarity of Bridget Jones’s Diary definitely plays a part in my decision to watch it every Christmas, comfort isn’t the only thing I find in this classic romcom. Films find a place in the pop culture canon when they capture, so precisely, certain feelings that are experienced the world over. Loneliness. Lust. Betrayal. Feeling like you aren’t good enough. Seeing the world through the filter of being in love. Or the chilling seed of doubt that makes you question whether you’ll ever really smile again.

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Renee Zellweger as Bridget and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’ Diary

It’s both a testament to Fielding’s writing and Renee Zellweger’s pitch-perfect acting that we feel all of these things through Bridget. These days, I pretty much know the script off by heart (“Gravy needs sieving, Pam.” “Surely not, Una, just stir it”). But I’ve also memorised Bridget’s facial expressions; the wide-eyed shock when she discovers Daniel Cleaver’s American girlfriend hiding in the bathroom; her sarcastic smiles at Cosmo and Woney’s dinner party. I remember them because they truthfully capture what it means to have experienced love and loss. 

Yes, Bridget Jones’ Diary, imperfect and flawed as it is, helps me feel seen – and that’s saying something as someone who dates women and is definitely not in pursuit of heteronormative love. But at the end of the day, to quote Mark Darcy, most of us just want to feel seen, just as we are. 

Images: Getty; Rex Features; Allstar/Working Title

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