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Broadcast News

January 27, 2011

766. Broadcast News
Directed by James L. Brooks
USA, 1987
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
Third viewing

Synopsis:

Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is a television news producer who is fiercely dedicated to journalistic integrity. Her best friend is Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), a talented but uncharismatic reporter who secretly yearns for her. Tom Grunick (William Hurt) is the station’s new recruit, a popular screen personality with a self-confessed limited understanding of the news he reads. While the station is forced to make staff cuts and modernize its output for the sake of ratings, Jane is torn between the two potential lovers — one to whom she is attracted despite him embodying all the journalistic trends she hates; the other a decent reporter and a close friend with whom she lacks spark.

Essential Scene:

Jane visits Aaron after his disastrous attempt to anchor the news. She confesses that she might be in love with Tom. After an initial outburst, he attempts to explain his disappointment more calmly. He steps outside to collect his thoughts, then returns.

Aaron: Okay, let’s take the part that has nothing to do with me. Let me just be your most trusted friend now, the one that gets to say all the awful stuff, okay?

Jane: I guess… Yes.

Aaron: You can’t end up with Tom, because it totally goes against everything that you’re about.

Jane: Yeah — being a basket case.

Aaron: I know you care about him, I’ve never seen you like this with anybody, so don’t get me wrong when I tell you that Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the Devil.

Jane stands up and begins pacing around the room.

Jane: This isn’t friendship. You’re crazy, you know that?

Aaron: What do you think the Devil’s gonna look like if he’s around?

Jane: [exasperated] God.

Aaron: Come on, no one’s gonna be taken in by a guy with a long, red, pointy tail! Come on, what’s he gonna sound like? [growls monstrously] No — I’m semi-serious here.

Jane: You’re serious that–

Aaron: He will be attractive. He’ll be nice and helpful. He’ll get a job where he influences a great, God-fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing, he’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing. He’ll just, bit by little bit, lower our standards where they’re important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along, flash over substance, just a tiny little bit. And he’ll talk about all of us really being salesmen.

Jane goes to the front door, as if to leave.

Aaron: And he’ll get all the great women.

Jane: [shouting from the hallway] Hey Aaron, I think you’re the Devil!

Aaron: You know I’m not!

Jane: [returning] How?

Aaron: Because I think we have the kind of friendship where if I were the Devil, you’d be the only one I would tell!

Jane: Well you were awfully quick to run after Tom’s help when–

Aaron: All right, fine! Yes! And if things had gone well for me tonight, then I probably wouldn’t be saying any of this. I grant you everything! But give me this: He personifies everything that you’ve been fighting against. And I’m in love with you. How do you like that? I buried the lead.

Aaron slumps on the sofa.

Aaron: I’ve gotta not say that out loud, it takes too much out of me.

Jane: Stop.

Aaron: I never fought for anyone before. Does anybody win one of these things?

Thoughts:

Unfair as such comparisons may be, it’s tempting to describe Broadcast News as “Network meets Hannah and Her Sisters.” It works both as a satire of the increasing tendency of television news to promote entertainment over education, and as a bittersweet romantic comedy-drama.

The three lead actors portray their characters beautifully, giving them life beyond the journalistic trends they represent for satirical purposes. Albert Brooks is especially touching as Aaron, a earnest reporter whose career is stunted by his lack of charisma. (Well, that and his tendency to sweat profusely under pressure.) Some of his scenes perfectly capture the torment of unrequited love.

Aaron: I’m going to stop right now. Except that I would give anything if you were two people, so that I could call up the one who’s my friend and tell her about the one that I like so much.

Or maybe I’m just a sad old bastard.

The ending feels refreshingly true to life. (SPOILER ALERT…) While Tom and Aaron are both presented as potential matches for Jane, the prologue shows that, while none of the characters end up alone, they don’t end up with each other. C’est la vie

And if I’m made too much of the rom, let me reassure you about the com

Tom: What do you do when real life exceeds your dreams?

Aaron: Keep it to yourself.

Broadcast News is available on region A locked blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2011 5:43 am

    Great blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Kudos!

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