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Broadcast News: Finally, My Answer to "What’s your favorite movie?"

I always struggled to answer the question I was asked the most: “What’s your favorite movie?” It wasn’t because I couldn’t think of any that left a lasting impression or felt meaningful to me in some way. It was because I thought of too many, and I never felt like one movie was more personal than the others.

It wasn’t until 2014 that I finally had an answer. It came in the form of the 1987 James L. Brooks romantic comedy Broadcast News. When I watched this movie for the first time, it was late. I had Netflix open on my laptop, and I clicked play on what looked like a nice film to watch as I wound down and relaxed. After about seven minutes, I paused the movie in my browser and turned my computer off. This might seem like an odd place to start when referring to the viewing experience that cemented my love for the film, but I quickly grabbed my television remote. I could not watch this on my computer.

I started the film in my bed, head against my pillow, unsure how much energy I had to invest in what I was about to watch. Within minutes, I was awake and ready to watch this film with rapt attention. Holly Hunter’s tears instantly brought me in, knowing I was in for a unique rom-com experience. Broadcast News is a love triangle rom-com exploring the relationships between co-workers ---- Jane (Producer), Tom (Anchorman), and Aaron (Reporter) ---- at a national TV network. Seeing the opening sequence, detailing each character’s adult job description through their personality as children. This scene made me excited to learn more about everyone.

Art by Amanda Mazzillo

When I first saw Jane crying in her hotel room, I knew I had to give this film all of my attention immediately. There was no turning back. I was not going to pause and fall asleep. She cried, and her tears resonated deeply with me. She allowed herself to cry and she is still seen as smart, resourceful, and successful. Her tears do not weaken her as a character or as a woman. Crying is a part of living and seeing a woman on screen freely express her emotions without being labeled as weak ---- which too often gets combined with the descriptor feminine ---- ignited something inside me. I knew this film ---- and Holly Hunter’s performance as Jane ---- was something remarkable.

Broadcast News shows me a woman who is the smartest one in the room but can still show her emotions through tears and anger. Jane’s response of “No, it’s awful” when asked, “It must be nice to always believe you know better. To think you’re always the smartest person in the room highlights her perfectionism, focus on her career, and emotional identity.

I felt relief when Broadcast News came into my life. Even though I knew my passion and love for film was real, I always wanted to have a clear and confident answer when asked about my favorite movie. Finally finding this film also helped me fully embrace my love for film in general. Watching Broadcast News with friends and family over the years are always moments filled with pride. Seeing how others react to the film means so much to me. I might spend too much time watching their reactions, but that does not take away from my pure joy of sharing something so close to me.

Broadcast News is one of the few films where I find myself writing some sort of small ‘review’ or comment after each rewatch. These range from who I watched it with to comments on getting to spend time with these characters for a few more hours. Whenever I log another viewing on Letterboxd with a short review showcasing my feelings during those specific watches, I am always ready for the reactions from a circle of my friends who love the film as I do.

Art by Amanda Mazzillo

Broadcast News is comfort. Despite how serious and emotionally impactful it is, this film puts me at ease. I feel wrapped up in a blanket of characters who feel like home. I love watching romantic comedies, and when I first watched Broadcast News, it was after browsing that genre on Netflix. What sets Broadcast News apart from other love triangle romcoms is the dedication to character. James L. Brooks crafts an especially impactful screenplay highlighting each character with equal importance. Tom (William Hurt) and Aaron (Albert Brooks) are given problems and storylines that do not always hinge on their relationships with Jane.

Tom is constantly down on himself, wondering why he is successful as an anchorman when he does not understand the news he reports. His attitude contrasts Jane’s outlook, showing how different they are as people, but most of their romantic moments come after they already know they fundamentally disagree on the future of news media.

In their meet-cute, Tom looks up to Jane for her intelligence and her speech on the softening of news ---- a speech everyone else hated. Their conversation eventually leads to her hotel room, where we learn Tom is not well-educated. He is a successful anchorman, but his negativity comes through with how he talks about himself. In this scene, Jane does not give him the quick boost he wants. She refuses to accept something he could easily change, especially since it goes against her beliefs. Tom wants Jane to listen and offer pity, but instead, she gives him solutions. She tells him to get a job at a newspaper, so he can learn more about the news he reports, but he shoots this down.

Tom’s lack of confidence might help Jane understand herself and decide what is best for her, but it also allows for deeper insight into his character’s mind. He doubts himself constantly and sabotages his work because of it.

During one scene, Tom does a news segment on date rape, which makes him cry. However, there was only one camera at the shoot, so Tom fabricates tears after filming to include with the footage. Aaron informs Jane of Tom’s unethical practice, and this moment pushes Jane away from Tom.. Yet earlier in the film, Aaron and other reporters discuss ethics, which shows that each reporter is fairly loose with their moral compass and would make a decision similar to Tom’s without hesitation. This scene is one of the big romantic comedy moments where we wonder if the characters can find their way back to each other.

Art by Amanda Mazzillo

Tom and Aaron are rivals for Jane’s love, but for brief moments, they manage to put this behind them. When Aaron is going to anchor for the first time, he goes to Tom for advice, showing that he might slightly respect him as an anchor. Tom appreciates being included and shares tips with ease.

William Hurt brings his character, Tom, to life with a memorable performance that highlights the character’s feeling of discomfort, lost in a world he feels is bigger and better than himself. William Hurt plays the part so well, allowing us to see what separates Tom from a traditional romantic comedy lead and care for him as an individual rather than just as a love interest.

We are given insight into Aaron’s issues through his intense desire to show that he can be an anchor, even though his strengths lie within reporting. He wants to prove he can do what Tom can do ---- and hopes this will make Jane love him. Aaron sees himself as the ‘good’ option, but this comes from his idea that being Jane’s friend ---- and someone with similar views on the news ---- makes him the only logical option.

Broadcast News does not justify his opinion on being owed love though, and instead shows the true absurdity of this way of thinking. In a particularly memorable moment, Jane goes to Aaron’s house after a date with Tom. She wants to console her friend after he fails as an anchor. Aaron urges Jane to cancel her planned return to Tom’s house, saying he needs her there. Right after she makes the call ---- severing her plans with the man Aaron sees as wrong for her ---- he tells her “Well, Jane, it was nice of you to drop by.” This shows just how little Aaron cared about actually having Jane’s company to work through his problem and how his main concern was making sure she didn’t end up with Tom.

Even while the film does not paint this aspect of his character as a good thing, we still have moments where we laugh and cry with Aaron. In a particularly memorable scene, Aaron ---- stuck at home getting drunk ---- has to watch Tom report on a breaking news story of which Aaron was an expert. Albert Brooks’ performance here highlights the hilarious and heartbreaking aspects of Aaron’s character. As Tom reports, Aaron sits at home drinking, reading, and listening to music at the same time. Trying to distract himself with hobbies on top of hobbies, but this still does not work. He comments on Tom’s performance as anchor with lines such as, “A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts.” Albert Brooks perfectly blends the comedy of this scene with the internal emotions of Aaron, once again looked over in favor of Tom ---- in both work and professional capacities.

This introspective character study makes Broadcast News a film that I can watch over and over, immersed within the interior worlds of its characters, rather than following the familiar plot to its next beat. With each viewing, I feel as if I am entering back into their world and saying hello to the characters I have come to know. This is a welcoming and comforting feeling, especially when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Broadcast News will always be my favorite film for the comfort it offers me in even my most stressful moments. It allows me to fall in love with the same characters all over again, bringing Jane’s endless determination, Tom’s feelings of not belonging, and Aaron’s humor to mask his pain back into my life each time I click play.

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