A PC TV Movie

2 Sep 2013: Broadcast News (DVD, 1987, James L. Brooks)

After an atrociously reductive and trope-heavy opening sequence, this movie improves a great deal at drawing characters and presenting complex relationships, but it still in the end feels like an extended sitcom due to its trite story arc, conflicts and resolution. Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks in particular deliver performances that arouse empathy in their roundness and unconventionality, but the writing acts to hamstring them when it goes for easy humor that jarringly pulls them out of character truth and makes them lesser, i.e. opting for familiar TV-style “neurosis” in place of actual, often uncomfortable, emotions and intelligence. Like the small screen too there’s not much in the way of eye-grabbing or noteworthy mise-en-scène, with the exception of occasional sequences in the thick of the studio – this more a function of the set itself (control room monitor banks and onstage/offstage goings-on, etc.) with great assistance from the editing, than the camerawork. There’s not much depth or insight as to the content of the news, because the focus is squarely on sexual politics and image control; we see the shallowness and pettiness of those who make and air the news, but the film swims entirely in that same part of the pool itself anyway. The sudden discovery of William Hurt’s callousness near the conclusion feels forced, as does the tidy postscript ending that wraps all the conflicts up into a pretty bow, but en route there’s just enough well-sketched intrigue and interpersonal dynamics to keep the story from total unredeemability.

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