I have a very hit-or-miss relationship with the films of James L. Brooks (although I admire his television work, notably The Simpsons) but among his own output, the one film that I feel stands out amongst all the rest is none other than Broadcast News, which showcases his writing at some of its very finest and most human. Similarly what we’re also offered is a biting satire of what happens behind what makes the media under the guise a love triangle forming from the three leads, all of whom are nothing less than absolutely charming as they take up the screen, it’s absolutely wonderful where all of this leads to because it breaks away from being your ordinary romantic comedy.
Broadcast News takes place during a time in which political conflict and infotainment do not overcrowd the news, before the Berlin Wall had been destroyed and the Equal Rights Amendment had fallen. Even with that said, news reporters still go out of their way trying to search for a story out of anything, Broadcast News gives a picture of that struggle so perfectly, for sometimes you’d come to think that the competition just to get a news story as a means of hoarding the attention to oneself no matter how experienced they may be. It even offers a different means of looking behind those working behind the news stations over on television today, what they would be attempting to carry as a means of sustaining the audience they built all this time.
What’s detailed here is a biting satire also at trends in entertainment oftentimes being the bigger focus over the more important news stories, one particular scene that comes to mind is where Holly Hunter’s Jane Craig is speaking over to a disinterested audience with a videotape playing domino championships in the background. She has something important to tell these people, but as the audience is cheering, it’s not for what Jane is achieving, instead it’s all focused on the domino championships, as it was an event detailed by every other news network as opposed to a change in policy regarding nuclear disarmament talks. As she asks about how terrified they are on the inside, no one showed any form of care.
The way that James L. Brooks wrote a character like Holly Hunter’s Jane Craig is one thing that keeps Broadcast News all so charming to watch, for given the treatment of the female gender in many other romantic comedies, she’s not one to suffer the tropes of the genre but she feels so genuine. Given as women within such businesses are not often taken as seriously as the men were, Brooks’s picture of the struggles which she had encountered makes for a rather endearing experience because of how layered this character is – for Brooks’s picture of her arc is so full of humanity and the final result is absolutely moving. She doesn’t need a male in order to help her find herself, which adds more to her own charm, as she feels more natural that way.
Every last line that Brooks writes into this screenplay is full of wit, charm, and most of all, life. Every character feels so lively and genuine with the material which they have, something I only wish James L. Brooks had been rather consistent with in regards to his own work. While Jane is obviously the highlight amongst all the characters, it’s the fact that Brooks wrote all these characters with such love and care from start to finish, always allowing for a spark of their charm and quirks to take the spotlight but also showing the viewers that they have more reason to behave like this, resulting in a much more lively product.
The whole ensemble of actors which Brooks has gathered up in Broadcast News is never not charming whenever they are not on the screen, whether it be from the adorable presence of Holly Hunter (arguably the film’s highlight), the ambitious Albert Brooks, or the handsome William Hurt, all have a distinctive spell coming out from the life they bring into their characters. It simply can’t be denied how pleasant every last one of them is whenever they take up the screen at any point because James L. Brooks allows for a sense of freshness in their performances in the same manner which he cares for how perfectly he writes these characters.
Yet another aspect where Broadcast News is indeed triumphant is in its picture of a love triangle forming between all of its leads, and how intricately detailed it is. From Albert Brooks’s Aaron Altman being secretly attracted to Holly Hunter’s Jane Spencer, who also has the attention of William Hurt’s Tom Grunick, a man intimidated by her skill, just seeing how James L. Brooks is willing to form a specific satire in regards to all of their pleasures which they so heavily indulge in is what moves Broadcast News away from the territory of being formulaic, and as a result we get something wonderful.
There’s way too much to go into when it comes to a film like Broadcast News. It’ll appear off as any old romantic comedy but seeing the intelligence arising from the biting satire of the world of news reporters competing for what they seek most along with their own pleasures adds more to what makes such a thoughtful product. There’s no doubt to this being James L. Brooks’s most fully realized script, a thoughtful and expertly detailed romantic comedy that suddenly proves itself to be one of the loveliest films ever to grace the screen. Just seeing Brooks allow for all the humanity to shine at its brightest on the screen, it always leaves a smile on my face upon every watch.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by James L. Brooks
Screenplay by James L. Brooks
Produced by James L. Brooks
Starring Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, William Hurt
Release Year: 1987
Running Time: 133 minutes