Sparks truly fly in this superb film about a love triangle set in the milieu of television reporting, featuring a terrific Holly Hunter as a feisty news producer.
Cast: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter
Plot: A highly strung news producer finds herself strangely attracted to a vapid anchorman even through she loathes everything he personifies. To make matters worse, her best friend, a talented but not particularly telegenic news reporter, is secretly in love with her.
Awards: Won Best Actress & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlinale); Nom. for 7 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Subject Matter: Moderate – Television Reporting; Personal vs. Professional
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
One of the greatest writers and producers for American television, James L. Brooks has made only a handful of films in his career, starting with the Best Picture Oscar winner, Terms of Endearment (1983).
He would follow up with Broadcast News, one of his most beloved pictures, set in a milieu that he was already very familiar with—television reporting.
Although receiving third billing after William Hurt and Albert Brooks, both of whom are very good, it is Holly Hunter that steals the show, in a terrific Berlinale Best Actress performance that elevated her from being a relatively new face into a bonafide performer.
She plays Jane, a feisty news producer who comes between two television reporters Tom (Hurt) and Aaron (Brooks) with different personalities, ambitions and values.
“Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive… if needy were a turn-on?”
It is easy to paint Broadcast News as a love triangle-type movie, but it is more than that. It situates the personal within the professional world, and it is this commingling of both worlds that makes the film so compelling in its depiction of human relationships that might just teeter towards something tangibly romantic.
The characters are never sure if liking someone would mean being in love with the person—the director creates this triangular tension as one marked by hesitancy, where the reluctance to commit romantically creates confusion, frustration and distance.
One of the subthemes of Broadcast News is the ethics of news production and how that might misalign with personal values. The film also tackles redundancies in manpower as newsrooms begin to cut costs and re-strategise their futures.
Brooks’ understated direction allows the performances to shine, much like Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), which would make a terrific double-bill.