Urban Cinefile
"I have lived an extraordinarily full life and I can never say, what have I missed? because I haven't missed anything"  -Jackie Collins
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Dynamic network news producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is too busy getting the six o'clock news to air to bother with personal relationships. Nor has she the time to suffer fakes or fools. Jane is blindsided, however, when lightweight sports presenter Tom Grunik (William Hurt) blunders into the newsroom. He can't write and he might not know too much about the news, but he has the looks and the presence that make people watch while others swoon. For years, award-winning newshound Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) has been waiting in the wings for Jane to melt and is incensed by Grunik's effortless intrusion onto his turf, especially the impact he makes on his own hopes and his dreams.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
The mid 1970s Australian TV soap series, The Box, succeeded because TV knew what was true and what was false about TV. Similarly, the validity of James Brooks' blazing and funny satire on the ethics of modern electronic journalism can hardly be challenged. Brooks began his media career as a network copyboy, served time as a writer of radio news and created the smash hit Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant TV shows.

Brooks knew workaholic news producers, like the feisty, dynamic, Jane Craig, who's cool in a crisis but vulnerable in the clinches and prone to bouts of therapeutic weeping. Dedicated to deadline at the exclusion of dateline, she constantly keeps an eye on the clock, but barely notices the biological clock ticking by.

More than anything else, she wants to make compelling TV news and she hardly connects to her physical needs until Tom Grunik, a cocky sports-caster being groomed to anchor the news desk, ruffles forgotten feathers. Unlike Aaron Altman, a highly-skilled but highly-strung Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Tom's silky superficiality is alien to all she admires on the newsfront...except that charisma has the power to even the score. Aaron and Jane are like siblings who have been through the wringer; who share a common adherence to the highest professional standards and a quirky sense of humour that helps hiss-off the steam from their pressure cooker existence. Aaron wants a deeper personal relationship but Jane, moved to choose between one newsman who looks good and one who is good, is lured by Tom's effortless charm.

Seizing on the role that was especially written for Debra Winger (who forfeited the part when she fell pregnant!), Hunter is sensational as a woman who would sacrifice her happiness for her career, if she knew how to separate the two. But Brooks (no relation to the director) is astonishing as the brilliant, neurotic newshound who finds that he can't cope with the pain of rejection.

All of this hardly seems a likely arena for bits of broad, physical comedy but Joan Cusack (as an assistant producer) has an uproarious moment, desperately dashing over chair, desktop and water cooler, with a crucial video tape that must go to air with no-seconds to spare. And Jack Nicholson (unbilled and unpaid at his own request) has a telling five minute cameo as the network anchorman who, in a rare visit to the newsroom to show facile solidarity during forced staff cuts, reveals in one steely-eyed glare that his only interest is the paycheque.

As in his popular but critically undervalued work in Terms Of Endearment, director Brooks seamlessly stitches the disparate elements together to create a biting and sardonic satire that snaps and crackles with some funny and blistering one-liners. When told that he will be a victim of budget cuts, a veteran newsman is asked with shallow sincerity by his supercilious boss if there is "anything I can do" and the withering retort is, "well, I sure hope you die soon!" Broadcast News is a perceptive, brilliantly acted and enthralling film about the ambition, obsession and compromise that affects mortals on both sides of the camera; about network executives who put the face of the news before the fact. The people in the business know that it is true.

Published: July 22, 2004

Email this article

(US, 1987)

CAST: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter

DIRECTOR: James L. Brooks

SCRIPT: James L. Brooks

RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 10, 2004

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020