American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Broadcast News" is as knowledgeable about the TV news-gathering process as any movie ever made, but it also has insights into the more personal matter of how people use high-pressure jobs as a way of avoiding time alone with themselves. The movie, opening today at the Fine Arts, is described as being about a romantic triangle, but that's only partly true. It is about three people who toy with the idea of love, but are obsessed by the idea of making television.
Deadline pressure attracts people like that. The newspapers are filled with them, as are ad agencies, brokerages, emergency rooms, show business, sales departments and police and fire stations. There's a certain adrenalin charge in delivering on a commitment at the last moment, in rushing out to be an instant hero or an instant failure. There's a kind of person who calls you up to shout into the phone, "I can't talk to you now - I'm busy!" This kind of person is always busy, because the lifestyle involves arranging things so you're always behind. Given plenty of time to complete a job, you wait until the last moment to start - guaranteeing a deadline rush.
I know all about that kind of obsession. (You don't think I'm turning this review in early, do you?) "Broadcast News" understands it from the inside out, and perhaps the most interesting sequence in the whole movie is a scene where a network news producer sweats it out with a videotape editor to finish a report that is scheduled to appear on the evening news in 52 seconds. In an atmosphere like that, theoretical questions get lost. The operational reality, day after day, is to get the job done and beat the deadline and make things look as good as possible. Positive feedback goes to people who deliver. Yesterday's job is forgotten. What have you got for me today?
Right at the center of "Broadcast News" is a character named Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), who is a news writer-producer for the Washington bureau of a TV network. She is smart and fast, and she cherishes certain beliefs about TV news - one of them being that a story should be covered by the person best-qualified to cover it.