Broadcast News (1987) (R)
















James L. Brooks's "Broadcast News" is a film that takes a very strong feminist stand by destroying stereotypes and showcasing an awkward love triangle.
Everything about the movie screams stress and efficiency. The movie begins as we see the three main characters as children. Tom is a young boy who looks good and is popular; but is, frankly, dumb as a rock. He ponders what he could be successful at if he's just good looking (the camera lets us know that he will be a news anchor: attractive and of low intelligence.)
Then there's Aaron who is graduating highschool at fifteen years old. He's speaking at commencement and tells his fellow students that he is thankful for the abuse that he underwent, for it made him strive to be better. Later, he's beaten up one last time and we are told that he will be a future news reporter.
Lastly, we see Jane who is typing to her pen pals. She is high-strung and full of energy. Her father pops his head into her room and tells her that it's almost time to go to bed. This provokes a tirade from Jane on her father's incorrect use of the word "obsessive". She will be a future news producer.
Then the main titles are cued and we enter into the world of network news.
Jane is sensationally effective at her job. But her energy is so high and her emotions stay pent up that once a day she unplugs her phone and has a crying session that lasts less than a minute. It's one of her peculiarities, that and her incessant need to tell taxi drivers which way to drive.
Committed to her job, Jane is locked in to a mindset of ethics. News should be news and not about puff pieces. Nuclear accidents are pushed aside for a flashy domino show. This really gets under Jane's skin...but she is the only one.
Jane (played by Holly Hunter) is speaking at a seminar of some sorts when the movie first opens, it's a lecture and her pupils are getting restless. Most people just walk out the door while Jane is trying to engage them—she's speaking about the decline of actual news........*yawn*
The only person who enjoys her speech (or pretends to at least) is Tom (William Hurt). He's part airhead, part suave seducer, part half-motivated worker.
Tom and Jane strike up a conversation and things seem to be going well until Tom drops a bombshell—he's never been to college, he's not that smart, and sometimes he has no idea what he's reporting about.
Jane scolds him for his lack of character and despises him from that moment on, just on principle.
Then she goes back to her new station where she is best friend with Aaron (Albert Brooks) and then we delve into a love triangle.
Tom shows up at Jane's station as a new employee, one that Jane is not too happy with. There's nothing that this man brings to the table...that is, if you don't count his looks.
At the station, everything is played out in the very last minute. People barely finish editing before it's time to air the piece—writing and voice overs take place at the eleventh hour, etc. etc.
The actual reporting and making of the pieces reminded me of something that Aaron Sorkin would write—there's a desperation and a momentum to these scenes.
I am very thankful for how "Broadcast News" handles the love triangle that it presents. You have Albert, who may not be the most good-looking and is stuck in that detestable pit known as "the friend zone". He's up against Tom who, like Jane says many times, is the anti-Jane. There should be no reason that these two should end up together. Then again, isn't that how all romantic comedies end up? Just look at "The Wedding Planner"... J Lo leaves the only guy who treated her nicely for Dr. Muscles....ugh.
Yet "Broadcast News" manages to hit all the same notes that many other movies have hit while still being fresh, fun, and sensationally watchable. Jane's choice of men may surprise you.
This movie helped jump start Holly Hunter's career, throwing her into the lime light. It also reaffirmed that William Hurt was a star...he is drastically different than his Oscar winning role in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" that came just a few years earlier.
But, it's Albert Brooks that proves himself among the large names surrounding him. He is the most complex character, certainly and always perfect in his execution.
The film was nominated for seven Oscars, winning none.
In the end, it is feminism that flares up unexpectedly in the last scene—strong and undiluted.
Yet, the screenplay was written by James L. Brooks...so how does that work? A man's view of a woman would be...anti-feminist? Or could he be a feminist himself?
My brain hurts. I'm going to stop thinking about that.
Whatever way you look at it, "Broadcast News" is fun, touching, and smart.









Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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