BROADCAST NEWS

Director James L. Brooks
Year 1987
Starring William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Joan Cusack, Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Jack Nicholson
Rating R
Run Time 133min
Age Policy

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with a parent guardian. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.

More Info IMDb

We often to look science-fiction to give us a glimpse of what we may face in the future. But writer-director James L. Brooks 1987 comedy-drama BROADCAST NEWS turned out to be an alarmingly accurate forecast of what would happen in the world of media, from the dangerous mixing of news and entertainment into "infotainment" to the emphasis on putting pretty faces in the anchor chair instead of seasoned reporters.

When you watch BROADCAST NEWS now, more than a quarter-century after it premiered and earned a bevy of Oscar nominations, you still see a brilliantly written, often hilarious and achingly bittersweet story about the difficulties of balancing careers and love lives, dealing with friendship and professionalism and fighting the endless battle between style and substance. At the same time, it's impossible not to realize how startlingly on-the-mark Brooks was. When veteran network news producer Jane (the furiously feisty and irresistible Holly Hunter) warns about the evils of devoting portions of your newscast to fluff stories designed to raise ratings, she might as well be the 1980s version of Cassandra: Everyone laughed her off and, as a result, we now have CNN doing "news specials" on Miley Cyrus' 21st birthday and Fox News regularly having to retract stories based on half-truths.

BROADCAST NEWS is also a sensational, albeit offbeat, love story in which no one is easily defined. Jane is a textbook workaholic, hurling herself into one project after another, refusing to take no for an answer and clinging to time-honored journalistic standards even as others decide to give up without much of a fight. At the same time, she's so terrified of showing honest emotion that she forces herself to cry in private, in order to maintain her straightforward, hard-charging persona.

Jane and seen-it-all reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks, in a career-best performance) are inseparable friends and co-workers, united both by their unusual perspectives on the world and their admiration for first-class journalism. They tease each other, analyze each other, flirt with each other, but most importantly, they support each other. Their bond is put to the test when Tom (Oscar nominee William Hurt) is brought on board; the former sports reporter is being groomed by the network for stardom, even though Tom has no news experience. What he does have is charm, a disarming smile and movie-star good looks.

Tom and Jane get off to a sour start when he turns down her woozy advances ("I have crossed some line, some place," Jane laments to Aaron. "I'm beginning to repel people I am trying to seduce!"). As they are forced to work together, however, Jane becomes semi-sympathetic to the plight of this babe in the woods. At the same time, Aaron tries his hand at substituting as a weekend news anchor, with near-disastrous results.

In the background, the winds of change are getting louder by the day. Eventually, everyone will be forced to re-evaluate his or her position, values and career path. 

BROADCAST NEWS was originally written for Debra Winger, Brooks' leading lady from TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, but she had to pass on the film when she became pregnant. As a result, the movie made Hunter an overnight sensation; while the actress had gotten strong reviews for her wacky portrayal of a wannabe mom in the Coen Brothers' RAISING ARIZONA, her sterling work as Jane elevated her into the upper echelon of young actresses. Jane is the personification of the '80s lady who is determined to have it all, yet Brooks and Hunter refuse to allow her to become anybody's idea of a stereotype. She's endearing, even when she's driving some of the people around her up the wall and Hunter consistently makes exciting, unpredictable choices in her line readings and responses. Winger would probably have been outstanding in her own way, but without question BROADCAST NEWS would have been an entirely different film.

The story does not wrap up predictably and safely (Brooks had prepared multipe endings for the film), which is another one of its many strong points. It ends with notes of happiness, wistfulness, longing, resignation and acceptance. It's the kind of ending that takes a few minutes to process. Perhaps it's because, after seeing a movie this wonderful, you're temporarily drained. Or perhaps it's because, as Aaron so memorably notes, "Maybe the best part of your life is over and you don't want to get up and start the bad part."

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