Powerful women in competitive industries are hard to come by in Hollywood production. Most women in power are given emasculation duties to the male protagonist, stock characters with little motivation and roundness of character or completely obsessed with her baby maker that she would be fired in a real life equivalent of the situation dramatized in the movies. But for some reason in the eighties, the industry produced a string of well-rounded women characters in power with moderate success. One of the most interesting to come out of this time was Broadcast News.
Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is a producer at the Washington desk of a major television network. She great at her job and waxes poetic about the integrity of the industry. She is against the merging of television news turning into show business. Her best friend, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), feels the same way. They make a great team that is able to deliver interesting pieces on hard news items. Enter Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a hotshot desk man who isn’t good at reporting, doesn’t read well and barely knows about current events. But he is handsome and his chemistry with the camera is undeniable. Although Jane despises what Tom stands for, she still is massively attracted to him. Meanwhile Aaron expresses his feelings for her as well. Jane is stuck between two men and the love she has for her job.
The way I described it the paragraph above might suggest that it is a romantic comedy. On one level, it is, but it is so much more than the love triangle. It is about the love of a high pressure job. The thrill of almost missing a deadline is made breathlessly apparent in an early sequence where Jane finishes an important segment of news fifty seconds before it is supposed to be on air. The visceral thrill both she and the people supporting her feel is made palpable by the race to the newsroom and the sigh of relief when the anchor smiles at the end of the segment. Not only was the piece good, it was full of integrity. Contrast this to a segment made by Tom later on in the film. He comes up with a depressing topic, date rape, and makes a thought piece on it. He interviews a woman who breaks down while she is telling her story. Once the woman is done talking, the camera cuts to him crying. This choice is manipulative and hammy. But if it was genuine, then it does say something about his sensitive nature. The problem is that it isn’t. As Jane is falling further for Tom and settling in on her choice, she learns that Tom faked the key aspect of the segment that Jane thought moving. Raw footage shows Tom concentrating on welling up. This reminds Jane for last time that this man is not a great reporter. He does not have the ability to see anything beyond ambition. Jane immediately gives Tom up and decides she does not want to go on vacation with him for this very reason. Something as small as a faked tear can have monumental effects on a woman with as much integrity as Jane has. When we catch up with Jane years later, we can see that she made the right choice. Her life is not incomplete because she didn’t end up with Tom or Aaron. In fact they were the ones that settled down with wives and kids. This is the perfect ending to a movie more about Jane accepting herself and less about Jane settling for what is in front of her.