1987

Film #320: Broadcast News (1987)

One connection that all of the characters that William Hurt has portrayed up to this point is that they have all been fairly intelligent. But that all changed when he appeared as the seemingly dumb Tom Grunick in James L Brooks’ Broadcast News.

It also takes a long time for Tom to appear on screen as we firstly follow up-and-coming producer Jane Craig and her best friend, reporter Aaron Altman. Though incredibly intelligent, Aaron isn’t particularly suited to anchoring the news as he lacks a certain charisma. Indeed, when one of Jane and Aaron’s pieces garners maximum praise it’s she who gets all of the credit from the network’s famous anchor Bill Rorish. Aaron then takes an instant dislike to Tom based on the fact that he knows little about current affairs but he proves himself eager to learn from both Aaron and James. When a story breaks during the weekend of a party that the trio attends, it’s Tom that’s selected to present the news over Aaron. His story about Libya sees Jane executive produce the segment and both see their careers advance as a result. In addition to professional jealousy, Aaron hates the fact that Jane is attracted to Tom as he has had feelings for her for years. Aaron is later informed that he may be fired during the station’s latest series of cutbacks and he implores his boss to let him anchor the news. Unfortunately, Aaron has to call on Tom for tips about connecting with the audience and looking his best on screen. As the film reaches its conclusion, and many of the station’s staff are let go, we see the trio go their separate way for various reasons. Director and writer James L Brooks then decides to flash the action seven years into the future where we discover how far the characters’ careers have come since we first met them.

Broadcast News was definitely one of the films I was anticipating the most when I started this decade as it appeared to have a lot in common with Network. On one hand it did have a lot to offer, Brooks had definitely done his research and the scenes at the station looked incredibly realistic. I enjoyed all of the scenes involving the reporting of the news and the intricate nature of each segment. In addition Brooks’ key theme of charisma versus real news was well-explored and perfectly exemplified through the characters of Tom and Aaron. However, I personally feel as if the film lagged in portions and took a great deal of time to actually get going. I wasn’t a fan of the personal lives of the trio and in particular the romantic triangle which didn’t seem to get enough time devoted to it. In fact it appears as if Brooks himself wasn’t a fan of the romantic angle but had to include as another hook to draw in a certain audience. Thankfully, in what is becoming something of a recurring theme, Broadcast News was improved by three impressive performances. Hurt again prove his versatility as an actor with his performance as a man who knows his limitations but tries to work with what he’s got. He realises his charm and good looks will get him further than someone like Aaron even if he knows less than him. Holly Hunter was excellent as the powerful yet vulnerable woman who is prone to outbursts of tears for no apparent reason. Hunter proves herself to be an incredibly warm screen presence and makes Jane somebody you want to root for. Meanwhile, Albert Brooks makes Aaron the film’s moral compass as he provides a combination of comic neurosis and charm. All three were nominated for well-deserved Oscar nominations and to me the combination of Hurt, Hunter and Brooks was the secret of the film’s success. Aside from the trio, Broadcast News had a fantastic supporting cast including Joan Cusack as the ditzy assistant and Jack Nicholson as the network’s famous anchor. Ultimately, Broadcast News had a lot to say and assembled a great cast to say it; I just feel it would’ve been a lot better had twenty minutes been cut from the overall running time.

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