Directed by: James L. Brooks
Written by: James L. Brooks
Starring: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Joan Cusack, Robert Prosky
Reaching the pinnacle of one’s profession takes hard work and diligence, but in certain disciplines, you’ve got to have the special talent to truly shine. Take the world of professional athletes where someone can dedicate as much time as humanly possible to get better in their craft, only to never catch up to someone who can naturally run faster and jump higher. In the wonderful Broadcast News, this idea finds itself in the world of delivering the nightly news on television with three people who leave an indelible mark on each other.
From a very young age, Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) wanted to tell the stories of the day on the news and after many years, she finds herself as an executive producer. One of her closest friends and colleagues is Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) dreams of being a lead anchor but never gets the opportunity. Their cohesion gets challenged upon the arrival of Tom Grunick (William Hurt), who gets the lead anchor position with half the experience of others.
The delivery of presentation and news has changed in dramatic ways over the years from plainly stating information to opinion shows being the main source of dissemination. One of the major shifts occurs in Broadcast News and it catches both Jane and Aaron by surprise. As people who have loved the news their entire lives, they have grown up wishing to continue the tradition of investigating important stories and bringing them to the public. It makes the arrival of someone like Tom all the more difficult for them because he represents a new wave in the way the news works. His arrival on the scene confirms their industry focusing more on the entertainment side rather than the technical and proficient style Jane is accustomed to. Inevitably, fireworks would eventually pop seeing as Jane does not stand down from anyone.
This film could have easily fallen into a story where each character attempts to undermine the other at every step in order to receive what they feel belongs to them, but Broadcast News takes an incredibly loving approach. The story warms the heart because everything these characters do in the feature comes from a place of passion for the work they do and the larger impact they have on society. It’s easy to see each character’s side of the story and how they may feel put down, but also in the ways they demonstrate their exceptional skill. Even with the character of Tom, who is initially set up as the dope of the trio; he eventually demonstrates exactly why he’s reached this particular moment in his career.
The relationship between the three of them evolves in different stages throughout the film’s runtime, which allows for tremendous growth between each of them. Each of these actors truly capture something special with their work, but Holly Hunter absolutely takes the cake for her work as Jane Craig. Jane represents perseverance, vulnerability, and compassion all wrapped in someone attempting to succeed in the field she loves. The film even opens with her as a young child reporting the news with her father. She never takes the easy way out and the fire she holds to succeed should be inspirational to anyone. Hunter flows through each moment with such care and allows this character to fully shine with the potential she has been given.
With working in any sort of broadcast news, you always hear the demeaning comment of someone having the face for radio. An undeniable reality of the trade remains that when people watch the news, they want to see a face they see as pleasing. It unfortunately creates a hindrance to those, who work hard but will never have the accepted standard of beauty to be the lead anchor, which plagues Aaron and what gets him aggravated about Tom. Aaron can research stories and put them together with the best of them while Tom has the natural ability to look incredible on camera and deliver the news with a level of poise Aaron could never truly attain. The progression of these two characters constructs a rivalry that borders on friendship at times, all founded in the immense respect journalists have for one another.
Dramas taking place in newsrooms always set up to be such interesting feature films because of the pressures of going on at a certain time and delivering information people depend on. Rivalries and any hate must be set aside, because when it’s 7 o’clock, everyone has to deliver. The inherent pressure to get everything right as it’s live makes for such tense moments between the three main characters. One scene in particular where Jane assists Tom with the delivery carries so much sexual tension and friction that you never know how it will be resolved. It makes every scene incredibly captivating, which this film beautifully captures in the different circumstances these characters find themselves in.
Broadcast News is pure excellence in feature filmmaking from the acting trio of Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt to the score underlying the narrative. All of it came from the mind of the brilliant James L. Brooks who wrote, directed, and produced this movie. It feels so genuine and makes every moment feel earned. The film has incredibly funny moments and those that will make you want to hug your best friend. It’s the overall package and truly one of the greatest films of the 1980s.