Blast From The Past: Broadcast News (1987)
Well, our journey to the past finally lands us in 1987. The joyous part of this experience is that I’ll be watching many of the films from 1987 and prior for the first time. That trend begins this week with James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News. Starring William Hurt, Albert Brooks, and Holly Hunter, the romantic comedy-drama went on to receive seven Academy Award nominations. While it did not win in those categories, it still managed to pull in $51 million in its theatrical run for 20th Century Fox, a true accomplishment thirty years ago.
Broadcast News, as you might guess, focuses on three people who work in television news. It begins with each character as a child, each displaying their unique personalities in these interactions. The film then skips forward to show each of these children grown and working in the same industry. Jane, played by Holly Hunter, is a talented producer whose entire life revolves around her work at the studio. Her best friend, Aaron, played by Albert Brooks, is a gifted reporter who works with Jane on pretty much everything. Tom, played by William Hurt, is an inexperienced but handsome news anchor who is transferred to their office in Washington, D.C. Their stories all intertwine as Aaron hopes for a chance in the anchor chair, Jane falls for Tom as she produces his stories, and Tom learns more about being a good news anchor.
As I watched this for the first time, it wasn’t hard to understand how it earned seven Academy Award nominations. Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt each brought a certain quality to their characters. Holly Hunter as the feisty, controlling, career-minded woman is fantastic. She manages to feel for the people around her, especially at the end of the film, and yet she is almost terrifying as this woman with such intense morals and confidence. Albert Brooks made me believe that he is a genius who cannot catch a break, and his chemistry with Hunter was a hallmark of the story. William Hurt plays a multi-layered man who understands how to play the game while simultaneously knowing his deficiencies, and all their portrayals just read as honest.
The other thing that struck me while watching was the whole news process. Since so much of it revolves around their time and work at the station, Brooks did a good job of actually portraying all the working parts of a newsroom. They show the editing process, the filming of stories, and even the role of an executive producer during a live broadcast. Now, it looks a little different in 2017, but at the time, I think it was an accurate and detailed portrayal of the functions within the newsroom as well as the way people cope with their high-pressure jobs.
Overall, I really liked the multi-faceted characters and the stories they lead. Of course, the outfits and large, permed hairstyles are a little outdated and sometimes distracting, but in it’s time, it reflected 1980’s fashion. However, the wit and pace of the story often made me think of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, which is still one of my favorite shows. So, if anyone feels the need to revisit a true romantic comedy-drama, I would highly recommend Broadcast News, a quirky yet fast-paced story of three people trying to figure out their lives in the midst of nonstop news.