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Alternative Law Journal

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Editors --- "Bits" [2001] AltLawJl 84; (2001) 26(4) Alternative Law Journal 211



The Gift

Director Sam Raimi.

I don't usually watch thrillers because they don't hold my attention - normally the suspense is too contrived and predictable. However I was riveted by The Gift. Kate Blanchett is genuinely memorable in her role as a struggling single mum with a gift for 'knowing' about past and future events. Keanu Reeves is also convincing as an actor for the first time in his role as a violent husband of one of Blanchett's clients. The story revolves around the disappearance of a woman and the question is who is responsible. Is it, as it appears to be, the violent husband or is it some­ one else altogether?

The story twists and turns around issues of whether and when to believe Blanchett's gift, including the obligatory courtroom scenes. But while the story is obviously important.! am left with two lasting memories of this film. First, there were moments in the film when I was very unsettled by what was occurring. It is a very good thriller in that sense. Second, the film demonstrates that Blanchett has a remarkable gift to evoke doubt and uncertainty, combined with an inner resolve. This one is well worth seeing. • FR

Bridget Jones's Diary

Director: Sharon Maguire.

Does the film Bridget Jones s Diary have any connection with the law? Truthfully, I know that you know that I know that it patently does not. This review then has nothing to do with anything legal; it is just sheer indulgence.

Unless of course, I can sway you to the view that the unhappy trials of love and the unspoken rules and conventions of dating that this film explores have a sort of loose resemblance to the Law. How so? Well, don't odd statutes (of which we all know at least one) and odd pronouncements by odd judges in odd courts of which the casebooks are littered show that the Law is neither precise nor logical (all of the time). And so love is too. I rest my short case!

Bridget Jones, played by American Renee Zellweger (Jerry Maguire), is a 30-something, single woman in Lon­ don, in PR with a publishing company. She is not at all like the confident, sophisticated women in TV shows like ISex and the City, who rollick along between lovers and who have marvelously stylish wardrobes.

'Hello Dumpling', says her mother in one scene. Too cruel, but it does capture the whole essence of Bridget. She is tending towards the ugly duckling, though like the ugly duckling she's reasonably happy being there. But as the years pass (we see two New Year's Days) and married couples abound, Bridget does want to pass from the dumpling stage to the happy with boy­ friend stage. She fantasises (if only briefly) about marrying one boyfriend, her then boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), before finally learning he is false and shallow.

Thankfully, in the background is Mark D'Arcy, played by Colin Firth (who was the real Mr D'Arcy in the 1995 BBC production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice). Mark is a lawyer (oh, there's the legal connection!). He is an earnest, London, human rights barrister. Strangely he is tongue tied (for a barrister) but he finally manages to let Bridget know that he likes her just the way she is. Bridget and her friends are impressed.

Ultimately, this is a happy, funny film. It is indulgence. Like good chocolate or wine. Good for a rainy, winter night. You might be with your lover or you might not. It won't matter. • MLS


Bleak House

by Charles Dickens, Penguin Classics, 1996 (first published 1853).

An oldie but a goodie. OK, so I haven't finished reading it, yet. 1010 pages is daunting, especially when it's that old, heavily detailed and descriptive narrative which worked better when we had attention spans that lasted for more than the daily headlines.

But as long as you use a bookmark, it's not hard to go back to from time to time, each time dipping into an exquisite portrayal of, well, the Dickensian English legal system. This is high sat­ ire, ridiculing the arcane and pompous Court of Chancery, through an account of the suit to end all suits, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. And as you are still smiling wryly at the brutal characterisations of lawyers and legal process, you are caught up short by an equally frank account of the misery wrought on ordinary people by the games lawyers play.

This excellent assault on the legal system (of old?) is most consistent in the early part of the book. Perhaps to keep the readers coming back when it first came out as a monthly serial, the story soon becomes the personal drama of the people affected. But before that tale sets in too snugly, revel in the account of lawyers 'mistily engaged in one often thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another upon slippery precedents, groping knee deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horse hair warded heads against walls of words, and making pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might'. • SR

Bits was compiled by Francis Regan, Simon Rice and Marie Louise Symons.

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