Today, our news shows can be comprised of stories that aren’t news at all, depending on the events of the day. Just look at the Today show. The local news usually gets the big stories out first. A crash on the highway, a building on fire, a robbery, then a segment about the local YouTube star or someones pet raccoon. This trend in news becoming cheap entertainment, rather than facts on important events, is exactly what the serious reporters in Broadcast News had feared.
We first meet your three main characters as young teens. Jane is obsessively writing at her typewriter and freaks out at her father when interrupted. Aaron is the fifteen year old valedictorian high school graduate who just keeps getting beat up for being smart. And Tom is the good looking boy who tries hard, but just isn’t good at school. “What can you do with yourself if all you can do is look good?” They all end up working together in a television news program and form a love triangle.
From their teenage introductions, we understand where each of them will end up. Jane (Holly Hunter) is the workaholic writer and producer who loves it when everything is in her control. Aaron (Albert Brooks) is the dedicated, educated corespondent who doesn’t have the looks to hold the world’s attention on TV. And Tom (William Hurt) just keeps moving up the ladder because he is handsome and a voice that can sell the news. Tom knows he’s unqualified for his job, sometimes he doesn’t even understand the news he’s reading. He openly admits these faults, but still runs stories that aren’t real news and gets promoted, leaving Jane and Aaron perplexed and unhappy. And when the station has to cut the budget, it’s surprising who gets the ax and who is promoted.
On a personal level, Tom is a good guy, and wants to do better at his job, so he tries to learn from Jane and Aaron. The more Jane and Tom work together, the closer they become. But Aaron has always had feelings for Jane, yet the two are just very good friends. As the film progresses, Jane is pulled more and more between the two men and the stress of her job.
The most memorable scene from this film has to be when Aaron gets the chance to anchor the Saturday evening news. After gaining some confidence using some tips from Tom on how to look good and sounds good, there is one thing Aaron didn’t see coming. Sweat. Once the camera goes live, he begins sweating in huge thick drips from his curly haired head. What’s more hilarious is that every moment the camera is cut away from Aaron, a swarm of people run in to dab his head and have to run off before the camera is back on Aaron. With all the mayhem, someone bumps into the big hanging map behind the desk, and it’s swinging in the background on live TV. The whole scene is perfectly hilarious, one of the best moments in the entire film.
You may find Broadcast News under the romantic comedy genera, but it doesn’t feel like one. It is a surprisingly intelligent film full of witty dialogue and complex characters. The performances from all three leads are wonderful and worthy of their Oscar nominations, even though Albert Brooks was nominated under supporting actor. There’s even Jack Nicholson who has a small role as the station’s head anchor who won’t reduce his salary, where in the film he requested not to be paid for the role. This is the last film James L. Brooks made before The Simpsons started up and it feels like a smart springboard straight into his animated franchise. At the least, this film was some fuel behind the character, Kent Brockman.
“A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts!”
I had a huge crush on Holly Hunter right after this came out. Unfortunately, none of her later roles made her seem quite so fascinating. While “Wag the Dog” didn’t get nominated for Best Picture ten years later, it would mesh nicely in a weekend pairing with this one….