Wednesday, August 10, 2011



Director/Screenplay: James L. Brooks

“Broadcast News,” is brilliantly accurate in it’s portrayal of the daily life of broadcast journalism; at least it was at one point. Who knows now; with cable and internet news playing as important a role, it’s a little hard to tell. In that respect, the movie, like most films about the television industry either takes place in the past from the start, or now seems instantly dated. 

What “Broadcast News,” is slyly brilliant at, is the realistic portrayal of human relationships and love. Love of work, with the occasional fleeing possibility of love with another fellow human being. That’s not true actually, the possibility of love with a human being is always there, but it’s hardly ever acted upon. Even during peak moments of sexual tension, the characters allow work to get in the way. It foreshadows the influx of 24-hour news cycle, making it more infotainment than information. 

This is idealized by Tom (Oscar-nominee William Hurt) who isn’t as smart as the people around him and he knows it, and he refuses to hide it, partly because he probably couldn’t. He’s right about his intelligence. In fact he’s so observant of how dumb he is, he isn’t aware of how smart he is. Nevertheless, he gets hired as a reporter and sometimes anchorman at the Washington bureau of a major network, because he’s incredibly natural in front of a camera. His producer Jane (Oscar-nominee Holly Hunter) is his exact opposite, a higher-than-mighty, job-obsessed, uber-ethical news producer. They meet after she gives a speech to a college about how the news is slowly turning into entertainment, visualized with a literal video of dominoes falling. She then goes into her hotel after everything that she’s needed to do is done, and begins to cry. She only cries in private. Why? This is never explained, but I imagine it’s the only emotion that’s truly her own. 

She mostly works with on-field reporter Aaron (Oscar-nominated Albert Brooks) who’s literally a genius, who loves reporting but can never seem to get any farther. He’s snobby; he’s great at his job, and is all-in-all a near perfect romantic match for Jane. Better yet, they’re perfect work matches for each other. These are three people who care about work. Some a little more than others, but all of them care about it more than love, more than finding someone. 

This movie and the characters are keenly aware as a pseudo love triangle occurs between them. Aaron is in love with Jane. They have the sexual chemistry of two people who might have at one time dated, but they haven’t, although they’re aware of the chemistry. Jane despises Tom personally, but is attracted to him anyway. They try to start dating but their careers keep getting in the way. This is a workplace melodrama that strangely disguised as a romantic-comedy, which is why I think it continuously holds up over time. 

Despite winning the Oscar for “Terms of Endearment,” four years earlier, James L. Brooks’s “Broadcast News,” along with his “As Good As It Gets”, have clearly become his best films, mostly because of how perfectly he combines the dramedy of everyday life with eccentric yet realistic and believable characters who behave strangely how people would behave in real life, or at least not necessarily how we expect them to behave in movies. These seem like characters with quirks if I simply describe them like in the flashback sequences at the beginning of the film that shows the main actors as kids. I used to think those scenes were unnecessary, but he uses them to play a trick on us, by setting these characters up as generic stereotypes, it suddenly makes it more interesting to see them as adults. We're expecting older versions of their younger selves, but instead, as played by Hurt, Hunter and Brooks, they're fully realized adult characters. 

Who does she end up with at the end you may ask? If you do, you’ve fallen for a romantic-comedy movie cliché, and the characters in this movie are a little too smart to fall into that trap.

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