Reviewing Broadcast News (1987)

Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is a talented segment producer for a local news show at a Washington D.C. network. Her best friend, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), is a good hearted news-writer who’s had a crush on her for years. Tom Grunick (William Hurt) is a very good looking guy who unfortunately is the personification of everything Jane hates about broadcast news nowadays: he’s incompetent, and not well educated and smart enough to work on the industry. But surprise! She falls in love with him anyways.

The movie was written, directed and produced by James L. Brooks, who just a few years prior to “Broadcast News” co-created and wrote “The Mary Tyler Moore show” (series 1970-77) and “Terms Of Endearment”(movie, 1983), both productions have clear connections to this movie, that didn’t impress as much it was expected at the time it came out despite dragging out some loud laughs from the audience.

The story revolves those three characters and their complicated relations with each other, but the biggest story problem with it is that it tries to be more than just a regular “laugh your ass off and forget logic” type of romantic comedy, it tries to be a funny yet critic portrait of the world of broadcast news, and it fails miserably, mostly because Brooks didn’t know yet how to create that kind of movie, having just left tv.

A good example of a bad idea in this film is the first scene, a very cheesy “easy laugh” type of flashback that introduces us to the three main characters: Tom, a pretty boy who wants to be smarter; Jane, a kind of crazy girl who spends almost all her time writing; and Aaron, a boy genius that at 15 gets beat up after his graduation ceremony, telling the bullies they’ll never make more than U$19,000 a year.

Besides that, there are lots of very funny moments, even though none of them are important to the development of the story: Aaron has a sweat emergency on air, for example, and that made me laugh until my eyes were watery and I had to run to the bathroom. You have to be on the right mood for that though, it’s really not a smart joke at all, and a very obvious and exaggerated way to convey his nervousness. You see, this wouldn’t be a problem at all was the movie not trying to be somewhat deep and critical.

Jane has a very important decision to make though, and it is whether she will stay with Tom, Aaron or neither of them. During the whole movie she expresses many times her desire not to be with her best friend in a romantic way, so that option is basically off the table already as the movie approaches the end and a major change happens within the network where they all work. Her desire for Tom grows despite all the signs that he isn’t the right person for her.

The decision comes at the very last minute, and even though I’m not telling you how the story ends, I must say her decision is based on something purely nonsensical, that happens all the time specially in their industry. That should’ve been taken into account when creating the characters and the story itself, just another sign of how unprepared the crew was to make this a critical comedy.

Talking about character creation and development, none of the characters seemed to grow at all during the movie, but what bothers the most is Tom, Hurt’s character: He’s supposed to be incompetent, but charismatic; romantic, yet too impulsive; someone to be hated, but still lovable. The description is so confusing that despite Hurt’s best efforts to make him believable and somewhat realistic, the character just makes no sense, and is completely unpredictable in the worst way possible.

In the end, the movie, despite being very funny and a good option to watch on a sunday when you want a good laugh and nothing else, fails miserably in it’a attempt at criticism, with characters that don’t evolve and, in some cases, not even make sense. I’m giving it a 65 for the good laughs. If you want to give it a try, this classic of the 80’s is available now on Netflix.


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