Broadcast News

(James L. Brooks, USA, 1987)


The supposedly topical side of James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News – a rather belated examination of the contrivances of television news and the inexorable trend towards sensationalist infotainment formats – is, in truth, not its best side.

However, as a study, spanning many years, of the zigzagging emotional relations between three characters – Holly Hunter as a workaholic producer, William Hurt as a pretty-boy newsreader and Albert Brooks as an intellectual sadsack, always second fiddle to the star – it is frequently stupendous. As often in Brooks, the theme of on-the-job personal betrayal (always with a highly charged, sexual sting) runs deep.

Brooks’ eagerly awaited directorial follow-up to Terms of Endearment (1983) was a disappointment to some. But this film – despite wading into some murky political waters – improves vastly on repeated viewings, and can be endlessly consulted for its inventive screenwriting/directing moves.

Perhaps the only dubious aspect of the project is its tendency to blame the "career woman" for the general unhappiness and neurosis of all.

Broadcast News is a clever, contemporary response to Old Hollywood romantic comedies, employing the same sexual tension and sparkling repartee – but rigorously refusing any pat, happy ending.

MORE Brooks: As Good As It Gets

© Adrian Martin October 1990/December 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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