Is Broadcast News a drama? A comedy? A ruthless satire? Or even a romance?
Well, it's a bit of all of these. But ultimately this movie, directed, written and produced by James L. Brooks, is a pretty effective slice of reality, set in a television newsroom, where egos are raised or smashed on a daily basis. Where last week's success is wiped out by last night's failure.
It concerns three characters. Principal cast member is fledgling anchorman Tom Grunick (William Hurt). Tom is pretty dumb, and he knows it. But he's tall and handsome, and when you get right down to it, he's not all that dumb at all, because he knows how to stop, take advice and listen to what people say to him.
Then there's hot-shot young producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter). Tom knows she's brilliant. He listens to her. He's even willing to consider falling sort of in love with her. Sort of.
Tom represents all the sort of intellectual dishonesty Jane abhors in her profession. But she is at the same time attracted to him. Or, rather, is attracted to his hair, his eyes, his body and his keen puppy-dog attitude. But despite this animal attraction, she is still determined to keep whipping herself along in her self-flagellating drive for perfectionism, honesty and personal integrity, in an industry which distrusts all three of those attributes.
And finally, there's Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), a clever and deeply neurotic reporter of the highest calibre, who basically distrusts everyone around him including himself. He is maybe willing to love Jane, if she'll let him, or even notice. But when you come right down to it, Aaron prefers being disliked to being liked. He thrives on rejection and disappointment.
He is a person who deserves and should chase success, but who prefers the less challenging option of comparative failure. The chip on his shoulder would, if sliced up, keep our local fish and chip shop frying for a week.
Broadcast News is intelligent and honest, and the points it makes about commercial television's approach to news reporting and presentation are every bit as valid today as they were when this film was released back in 1987.
This is one of William Hurt's finest roles, right up there with his appearance in Body Heat and Holly Hunter acts as if she's crawled right into the very skin of single-minded, obsessive and downright neurotic Jane. As for Albert Brooks' Aaron, he makes my skin crawl as he whines and delivers 'smart' putdowns to anyone doing better than himself. And I guess that's exactly what the character is meant to do.
I've seen this movie described as a romance... it's far from that, although attempts at physical and emotional connections are a core issue in the movie. Anyone who has been involved in the media, whether in television, radio or print, will recognise just how perceptive this drama is. But that sort of inside knowledge isn't required, there's enough truth about human nature here for everyone to draw something of value from.