Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Broadcast News (James L Brooks) - 1987

Today, the Criterion Collection released their edition of Brooks' Broadcast News. When I first read press of the release of this film, I was a bit confused by the collection adding a film that sounded so "rom-com" (romantic comedy). I am a fan of the cast though- Holly Hunter (in anything), Albert Brooks (in Mother), and William Hurt (in The Big Chill). Then, I looked into the filmography of Brooks: writer for the tv series' The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The Simpsons, director/writer of Terms of Endearment. I had never seen Terms of Endearment (although, after viewing Broadcast News I did finally see the film), but knew the film was praised by many. I decided I may have been too quick to judge Broadcast News.

The film follows a news correspondent (Brooks), a news producer (Hunter), and a news broadcaster (Hurt). Hunter and Brooks have been working together for years. They're dedicated to their jobs- too dedicated. They lack a focus in their personal life because they believe there is something to be said for their careers. Hurt comes to the scene as a new broadcaster. Hurt reveals to Hunter that he doesn't always understand the news he is delivering. He admits there is a disconnect between the reality and the words. Hunter is against this type of reporting. She is shown giving a lecture on the evils of news becoming a celebrity obsessed tool (how ahead of its time seeing how much news revolves around celebrities these days).

Of course, in films like these, there has to be "the issue." In this case, Brooks likes Hunter. Hunter admires Brooks. Hunter grows to like Hurt. Hurt immediately like Hunter. Hurt and Brooks can't stand each other. Or, more honestly, Brooks hates Hurt. Hurt stands for all those guys who beat him up in high school. All those beautiful people who continue to stomp all over his goals. It sounds a little cliched. And, at times, there is a bit of cliche. But, honestly, this is the era when the cliches are being written. At the time, this felt pretty fresh I would imagine.

The dialogue is very smart. A fast paced, sometimes acid tone to every sentence. There are some lines in this film that just break your heart. For example, a man says to Hunter "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always be the smartest person in the room." To which Hunter pauses and responds with "No, it's awful." Hunter's pause reveals so much pain and truth. This may be the best acted film of Hunter's career (and I watch Home for the Holidays once every year).

The film is smart. It feels so fresh because it doesn't treat its audience like idiots. We are meant to understand where these characters come from. None of them are bad people. These are people who are just doing what they know how to do. And doing it the best they can. It is rare that a film captures such complicated relationships in such careful and honest ways.


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