Story: The world of television news is supposed to put the facts ahead of everything else, but that doesn’t always happen, with ratings, office politics, and outside pressures impacting not only what makes the news, but who reports that news. Jane (Holly Hunters) serves as both a producer and writer for her network affiliate, a channel based in Washington, D.C. She has old school values and views on the news and how it should be presented, which she is especially stubborn about since so much crucial news unfolds under her station’s watch. Also at the network is one of her best friends, Aaron (Albert Brooks), who is a superb reporter with great investigative skills and the kind of fearless drive that pulls all the facts out of even the toughest stories. But he runs into problems, since his on camera work isn’t as good, which becomes more of a problem when a new reporter arrives that is a natural for television, but not the kind of skilled technical reporter as Aaron. When the chips are down and the news is on the line, where will Jane fall when it comes to style versus substance?
Entertainment Value: As I write this review, television news media in the United States has prioritized entertainment over education and information, which makes looking back on a time when this was at least contested was interesting, to say the least. Broadcast News might be dated by some the 80s elements, but the narrative remains relevant and the movie is made with immense skill, it hits all the right notes across the board. The premise is rich and the writing takes full advantage of that potential, giving us characters with real depth in believable, interesting situations. The love triangle aspect could have been a detriment, but the writing handles it perfectly and really fleshes out not just the characters, but the various bonds and conflicts between them. So don’t expect a sappy, romantic comedy type triangle, as thankfully that isn’t the case here. The atmosphere is well crafted and the newsroom feels alive and authentic, which adds even more believability. The personal stories are explored in depth, but ample time is also given to develop the larger story of whether news was turning into pop entertainment, a question we now sadly know the answer to. Broadcast News is an excellent film and one I’d recommend to anyone with even a casual interest in cinema or the evolution of the news media.
As good as the direction and writing are in this one, the acting is perhaps even better and boasts a trio of remarkable performances. William Hurt plays the flashy new reporter who the camera loves, a role he thrives in and really brings to life well. Hurt is able to bring across the charm and presence the character requires, but also the character’s flaws, both sides represented in natural ways, so it doesn’t feel like a gimmick or overly simplified. Albert Brooks is Albert Brooks as usual, but since he was a great casting choice for the role of Aaron, he is terrific here. His banter is on point as usual and again, he is able to show both the positive and negative traits of the character in very human ways, which really makes the depth feel believable. Holly Hunter more than keeps pace with her costars, in what I think is the best performance of the film and the role with the most depth. She shines in this role and really dives in deep, yielding some fantastic moments on screen. The individual performances are excellent, but it is how the three characters weave in and out of each other’s stories that really drives Broadcast News, simply masterful work from these leads.