Format: DVD NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.
Broadcast News is a perfect example of why I’m rewatching everything on The List before I review it. I wanted a sense of where I am with a film now rather than memory of it, in part to see if my opinion has altered. This is a case where my opinion of a film has improved somewhat over my initial reaction. Don’t get me wrong—I thought this was a well-made film the first time I saw it, but I didn’t like it a lot. I still can’t say that I like it a ton, but I like it more than I did the first time I saw it. I don’t think I saw this in the theater. I remember seeing it with my girlfriend at the time, who was a newspaper reporter. We watched any film that had a reporter angle. We’re married now, she’s not a reporter anymore, so she doesn’t care that much about films like this anymore. I think she liked it more than I did.
Anyway, this is a workplace romance dramedy involving a love triangle that centers around three people who are missing something vital in their personalities. Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) is a talented, intelligent, connected television reporter who just doesn’t have the charisma to be the focus of a network news broadcast. Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is smart, tough, and great at her job as a producer, but unable to overcome feelings of physical inadequacy when she compares herself to the more telegenic women she works with. Tom Grunick (William Hurt) looks great on camera, has poise, and takes direction, but he’s as dumb as a post and represents everything that Jane hates in news media. So naturally, these are the three people who will be in one manner or another vying for each other’s affections. Put simply, Aaron has an unrequited crush on Jane, who is taken with Tom’s looks but repelled by his ignorance while Tom is attracted to Jane but intimidated by her knowledge and skill.
I had forgotten that this film had such a stellar cast aside from the three leads. The lead network anchor for the station in question is Jack Nicholson, who evidently took the role without pay. Personal favorite Robert Prosky works at the station, as does Joan Cusack. I’d completely blocked these people out of my memory for some reason.
Anyway, Broadcast News does a nice job of rounding these characters out and making them complete, something I always appreciate. The characters themselves are believable. Tom, for instance, is constantly aware of the fact that he doesn’t really have the brains to be a news anchor—he knows nothing about the job really. He just looks good in a suit and can talk about one thing while someone feeds information into his ear on another thing. He feels lost and isn’t sure why everyone is giving him so much attention. Everyone has felt lost in a situation. Everyone’s been in an unrequited love (or lust) situation like Aaron. We’ve all had experiences that make these characters relatable. Jane has a few memorable quirks, like giving taxi drivers directions to where she’s going and crying when she is alone only to compose herself moments later.
But there’s still something that feels off to me about the film. The first time I saw it, I didn’t like it because I didn’t like the ending. I wanted, well, the ending that I wanted. What we actually get here is the ending that nobody really wants. It struck me wrong in the moment, although it doesn’t now. I’ve gotten smarter as a movie fan and as a knowledgeable film viewer to understand why it goes where it does.
What bothers me about the film now is that while the characters themselves are relatable, there is something about the entire situation that feels manufactured. I don’t buy the situation. I can’t really put my finger on it. The people make sense, their personalities make sense, their behavior makes sense, but the whole package just feels off to me.
Because of that, Broadcast News will likely never be one of my favorite films. I think I’ve come to a place where I can respect it easily and can even admire parts of it, particularly the moments of humor. Of all the characters, I find Aaron the most human, the one I root for the most, and the one whose actions and reactions are perhaps the most understandable. But even with him, there’s something artificial about it.
I think it’s strange that I have this reaction to the film, because it also seems very prescient. The news media, at least televised news, has become about entertainment rather than about the news or about journalistic integrity. Even more than when this film was made (25 years ago!), we live in an environment of yellow journalism, hype, and scandal. Broadcast News was released in a world that was just getting used to 24-hour news networks in a time when most of us still trusted the media, and at least a part of the film’s message was that the show was sometimes more important than the news itself. And maybe that’s the problem here. Broadcast News is dated, because there are no news organizations like the one depicted here anymore.
Why to watch Broadcast News: Good performances and some comedic moments.
Why not to watch: It very much feels its age.
"I remember seeing it with my girlfriend at the time, who was a newspaper reporter. We watched any film that had a reporter angle. We’re married now, she’s not a reporter anymore, so she doesn’t care that much about films like this anymore."ReplyDelete
I wonder what the Missus would have thought of "Shattered Glass," a movie that made very effective use of Hayden Christensen's weird and wooden acting style.
Well, Sue hasn't been a reporter for years, so we'll probably never know. I'm sure she's got an opinion on The Year of Living Dangerously and Absence of Malice, though.Delete
I liked your comment about rewatching everything on The List before you review it. I've had the same experience with a number of films.ReplyDelete
I find it interesting that my memory of some films is quite accurate, and completely off with others. While it could have something to do with my memory (and changing tastes) - I suspect it also has something to do with how some films "age" better than others.
One of the films that I was most surprised with was Dangerous Liaisons. I'm not sure why I didn't see this movie for what it was in 1988 - but am happy that I re-watched it.
Movies about journalism always intrigues me. I should give Broadcast News a watch one of these days. I need to rewatch The Year of Living Dangerously as well as that one took place in my home country and the subject was pretty controversial for the day.ReplyDelete
@Klaus--there are probably some films I didn't/don't need to rewatch, but I'm doing it anyway. I think when I put up the review of Raiders of the Lost Ark it was in the multiple dozens of times I'd seen it, but I still wanted that snapshot of where I was with it in that moment. For me, it's about my integrity with the film and being fair to both it and to anyone who reads what I've written.Delete
@Flix--I really like The Year of Living Dangerously, although I think my love of it may well be that it was something I saw early in a relationship that has ended up lasting for more than two decades. Don't take my word for it until I see it again.
I saw this movie 25 years ago and have never had a desire to see it again. I didn't like any of the three main characters in it, and as we recently discussed in the comments for Being John Malkovich, when I dislike the character(s) I often dislike the movie. One thing that is funny about this, though, is that at first I disliked the Hurt character, but once I got to know the other two, Hurt's character actually became the least dislikable by the end.ReplyDelete
This was one of those "why the heck are all the critics so gaga over this movie?" reactions for me.
It's funny you mention Joan Cusack because I will always remember her scene where she is frantic to get a piece of tape to put on the air and she is practically moaning sexually to get it then she has a mad dash through the station, barely ducking under an open filing cabinet drawer before getting there just in time with the tape.
Despite this, as I am sitting here I am drawing a complete and utter blank on the ending of the movie. It must not have made much of an impression on me. Since critics loved this movie that tells me it was probably downbeat.
Actually, that's not unlike my response to this film in general. As I said above, I liked it more this time than I did the first time through, but not a lot more. I respect where it goes more now, and I like what seems to be the film's prescience.Delete
As for the William Hurt character, there's an odd sympathy for him. He's kind of a doofus--he's easy to dislike in a way, but almost impossible to hate.
Joan Cusack's run through the studio is fantastic. The scene I always remembered was Albert Brooks sweating on camera.
"It couldn't have been that bad."Delete
"A lady called in because she thought I was having a heart attack."
"It wasn't unprecedented, was it?"Delete
"Not unless you count Singin' in the Rain."
I had forgotten the second exchange. It was also funny. Thanks.Delete
I am in total agreement about rewatching a film prior to reviewing it. I know that for me, I need at least two times through a movie to really form my opinion of it.ReplyDelete
As for this movie in particular, I'm in agreement with you. I liked it, but I was expecting... more, somehow. I think it was a victim of its own expectations.
But hey, William Hurt is pretty, so it's all good.
I temporarily forgot that you have a relationship with William Hurt like I do with Penelope Cruz. Y'know, perfect in every way except for being entirely one-sided.Delete
I remember watching this film and liking it enough to buy it, but I haven't seen it for a few years now and all I can remember are the opening character introductions ("You'll never make more than $19,000!"), the running through the studio with the tape and the tape. It's one that I'm genuinely looking forward to revisiting though.ReplyDelete
It's worth revisiting, as most films are after a decade or two.Delete
The $19,000 line is a good one, as is the follow-up of the guys walking away thinking that that sounded pretty good.