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Broadcast News


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Broadcast News (d. James L. Brooks - 1987)

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An extrememly entertaining comedy/drama from James L. Brooks. It's a witty film; brought to life by a sharp script with some great lines, that is about the state of journalism as much as it is about the complex lives of three characters that inhabit it. For me while everything in between is great, the opening and closing of the film were a little weak. The prologue is quite funny but just feels like it's trying to hard to be cute and clever, while the epilogue feels unnecessary.

The main reason why this film was such a hit for me was definitely the performances of the central trio of William Hurt, Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks. Separately they are all great, but it's their chemistry with each other that really gives this film its spark. The way each character interacts with each other is great. Each relationship has a great mix of love, friendship, hate, respect, jealousy etc.

As I said all three performers are excellent but certainly the star has to be Holly Hunter. It's got to be the most I've enjoyed an actress' performance in a long while. She brings great humour to the table with some great line deliveries, but also quite a sad poignancy to the tightly wound, conflicted character of Jane. There's also something about her that reminded me of those women frequently found in screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s.

For a comedy that features a romantic triangle it was refreshing that it wasn't as straightforward or formulaic as could be expected. Instead we get a fairly realistic, complex tale about real and complicated characters. William Hurt's character (Tom Grunick) is a vapid, vacant and eventually unethical representation of journalism's decline. And yet he still somehow remains a fairly likeable and affable guy, largely down to his easygoing nature and readiness to admit to his shortcomings. Holly Hunter's character (Jane Craig) is wonderful at her job and a true idealist about holding on to journalistic integrity, but becomes hopelessly unstuck when it comes to relationships. As Joan Cusack's character says “Except for socially, you're my role model.” So you understand why she's become a bit of a workaholic. She then falls for Tom, despite him being an example of everything she hates about the direction the news business is heading in. There's a great moment where she realises her feeling for him and her face contorts in horror. And then there is Albert Brooks who is supposed to be the moral centre of the piece but even he's a bit of a pr**k! When confronted with and when things don't go his way he becomes very petty and spiteful.

Oh and although Joan Cusack only has a relatively minor role, she also deserves some praise for bringing a high hit rate of laughs considering her time on screen. She is great in the classic scene near the start where there is a frantic rush to get the tape delivered on time.

The film is very successful (at least I believe it is) at creating the world of the newsroom, and being there at the shift from proper, responsible and respectful journalism to what we have now; a world where it is no longer about accurately reporting the news, but a world of ratings and revenue. Journalistic standards and values have declined, as the newsbusiness has 'evolved' into just another brand of showbiz. It's a world where physical appearance and superficial charms come out on top of intellect and skill. And this was one of the main reasons why I preferred this to Network. It portrays the same message and points, but is able to do it in a much more subtle way than the over the top, overwrought (though still quite enjoyable) Network.