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Movie Reviews

Broadcast News



Released: 16th December 1987

Director:James L. Brooks

Stars: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter


Reviewer: Philippe Ostiguy

There’s something reassuring about discovering movies as well-rounded as Broadcast News, like finding a shelter to run back to when the storm hits. James L. Brooks’ follow-up to 1983’s five-time Oscar-winningTerms of Endearment makes for exciting cinema not by packing a punch but by piling up strengths, quietly building an impressively solid, and satisfying, ensemble.

The picture is essentially a tremendously effective character study, creating along its course three multi-faceted television news workers clumsily treading the line between likeable and off-putting. Not once does it feel as though they have been assigned traits to accommodate the storyline; rather, they seem to struggle with their faults, trying to stay on their feet in spite of them. Brooks’ Academy Award-nominated script never misses a beat, tactfully weaving in and out of sentiment and comedy, feeding actors and viewers with refreshing, intelligent dialogue.

The film centers around three individuals working for the same network. Number one: Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), a gifted producer consumed by her work despite its excessive demands on her affect – thinkNetwork’s Diana flipped upside down:

with the cracks showing and an unrelenting penchant for A-grade ethics. Number two: Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), Jane’s best friend and talented yet diffident reporter who keeps busy dreaming of bigger things. Number three: Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a successful news anchor with no journalistic background capitalizing on his good looks who is always the first to point out and mock his own lack of credibility.

The stellar first half of the film depicts the latter’s arrival at the network and the interactions between characters as part-time coworkers and part-time friends while providing genuinely exciting insight into the world of television news. Despite his warmth and willingness to learn, Tom personifies what Jane and Aaron despise – the rise of entertainment news and sensationalism – and for this reason they initially feel the need to patronize his success. Gradually, however, Jane is exposed to the man under the anchor, andBroadcast News’ second half slips into more familiar territory, that of a love triangle riddled with moral dilemmas. To say the film loses itself in this subplot would be misleading – it was evidently initially meant as a romantic dramedy focusing on this very subplot – but after an hour suggesting far more subtlety and maturity, the straightforwardness with which it is treated comes as something of a letdown.

Thankfully, three spectacular central performances, all nominated for Academy Awards, more than support the film into its romantic turn. The leads are able to work with the film’s rapid pace and construct intricate portraits of their characters without requiring explicitly introspective scenes, instead revealing feelings and reasons little by little, moment by moment. While Brooks’ assumption that the public is intelligent and perceptive enough to grasp details and draw conclusions is a bold one for Hollywood romance, these performers provide damned good insurance.

Aided, of course, by Michael Ballhaus’ stunning cinematography, Broadcast News proves to be a showcase of talents that gelled well, an all-around solid picture that effectively combines maturity and entertainment, and a glowing reminder of why we all love cinema

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