Broadcast News

Review No. 451

Breaking News: A charming, funny, and well-written (if unoriginal) romantic comedy!

Directed by: James L. Brooks
Written by: James L. Brooks
Jane Craig: Holly Hunter
Tom Grunick: William Hurt
Aaron Altman: Albert Brooks
Also Starring: Lois Chiles, Christian Clemenson, Joan Cusack, Peter Hackes, Robert Prosky

Distributed by 20th Century Fox on December 16, 1987. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 133 mins. Rated R by the MPAA–mature themes, sexual situations, infrequent language.

Broadcast News was watched on March 9, 2013.

“I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.” –Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks)

I’m a fan of James L. Brooks’s work. Part of it is because he seems to know his cast, but if I were to pinpoint one key reason, it’d be that the man can actually write and direct a romantic comedy–a candid, authentically human romantic comedy.

In the case of Broadcast News, we’re given that most clearly. The film seems like “chick flick” fare: a TV producer working for the local news is, essentially, torn between two guys, one with brains and one with beauty. One who calls the plot “new” or “surprising” has successfully managed to avoid everything featuring Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, or Katherine Heigl in a leading role.

That’s as close as I can possibly venture to comparing Broadcast News to those films without implicitly insulting it. The screenplay is marvelously written. It doesn’t want to be consistently and bombastically hysterical, something for which I’ve always honored Brooks. He always seems to flawlessly levee his humor for the sake of an equally sincere drama.

And so we care deeply about Holly Hunter’s lead, feeling sympathy for her, in her own pity. She’s constantly neglected by lesser men who see her as a jewel without an inner brain. We love her like we loved Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, or Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment.

I enjoyed Broadcast News. This is a clever spin on formula, topped off by a strong ending and an excellent cast.* This isn’t a movie for the ages. It’s memorable, charming, and funny, but what takes Ms. Hunter the entire movie could take another woman two to seven minutes in another movie. And the thin plot does give the movie a bit of drag every now and then, but for the most part, it helps maintain a free, lifelike, amusing mood.

*I’d like to add that Jack Nicholson, in his minimal screen time, delivers as much as Joan Cusack, in the lead, but you know very well that I’m biased. For whatever reason, though, his performance went without billing; it’s very much noticeable, and there’s even a joke on his iconic smile.



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