Cast: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Joan Cusack, Jack Nicholson
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (William Hurt), Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks), Best Original Screenplay (James L. Brooks), Best Cinematography (Michael Ballhaus), Best Film Editing (Richard Marks)
SUMMARY: Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is a high-strung, workaholic television news producer. Her best friend is her frequent work partner, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), who usually writes for the news, but has dreams of being an anchor. Though they have a strong friendship, Aaron is in love with Jane, but has not told her. However, he becomes obviously jealous (both professionally and personally) when Tom Grunick (William Hurt) joins the station. Tom lucked into his job as anchor, having been a sports reporter who looked and sounded good on TV. He knows this, and is insecure about his ability to do his job properly. Almost immediately, he is attracted to Jane, but when he sees her doing her job, is also more than a little intimidated by her intelligence and ability. For her part, Jane is drawn to Tom, but doesn’t like his lack of qualifications, or his relaxed approach to doing his job. Despite this, her attraction to him grows as they work together, but it is only when another anchor starts dating Tom that Jane becomes aware of her feelings. During their first major project together, Jane and Tom work almost seamlessly, Jane feeding Tom lines and questions at precisely the right moment. Tom is thrilled by the success, but Jane has backed off because of his other relationship. However, when she has the opportunity, she sends the female anchor to Alaska to do a piece. Tom’s big break at the station comes when he personally produces a piece (using a single camera) about female rape victims. The piece brings tears to the eyes of most of those watching it, and even succeeds in moving Jane. However, Aaron, who has always been suspicious and somewhat hostile to Tom, is not impressed.
Eventually, Tom and Jane come to a point when neither is intimidated or irritated by the other; they decide to go to a fancy journalist’s dinner together. Aaron is also scheduled to go, but at the last minute is given a shot to anchor the weekend news. Before the broadcast, Tom is assigned to work with Aaron on developing his on-screen personality and poise. That evening, as Tom and Jane are at the dinner, Aaron anchors the news, but is so nervous that he sweats profusely throughout. This becomes noticeable to the television audience, who call in, virtually ensuring that Aaron will not have another chance at anchoring the news. Tom and Jane plan to head back to Tom’s house together, but Jane insists on stopping in to check on Aaron. There, she learns that his debut was a flop; she sympathizes, but tries to leave as soon as possible to get back to Tom. When Aaron figures this out, he and Jane get into a huge fight, with Aaron eventually admitting that he is in love with Jane. He also insists that although Jane thinks she is falling for Tom, he is not the right man for her. Not long after, major budget cuts are made at the network, resulting in the firing of a large number of people. Jane is actually promoted, but Tom is sent to a station in London; most of the rest of Jane’s usual team are fired. Aaron does not give the network the chance to fire him, quitting instead. Since he will be leaving for London in about a week, Tom and Jane decide to take an impromptu vacation together. Before they leave, the still-angry Aaron alerts Jane to the fact that there was something funny about Tom’s rape victim piece. When she watches the tape, she notices that there is a cut shot of Tom tearing up during the interview, which should be impossible since there was only one camera. On further review, she discovers that after the interview, Tom welled up on cue, then filmed it and edited it into the piece. She considers this to be a huge breach of ethics, and immediately heads to the airport to confront Tom. She is even more appalled to find that he has no moral or ethical problem with this, and wants to forget about it and go on vacation. However, Jane has decided that she cannot be involved with someone who has such different values from her own, and breaks things off. Tom goes to London, while Aaron moves to a different news station out of town. The three do not see each other again until several years later: Tom is a successful, popular anchor who has recently gotten engaged; Aaron is married with a young son, and Jane is doing well at work, and has recently met someone.
MY TAKE: This was a pretty good movie until the end, which was total crap. The whole time, there’s a sort-of love triangle developing (though Jane’s feelings for Aaron seem to be mostly platonic), so you figure that she has to end up with one of them. For most of the movie, it seems like this will be Tom, if they can both manage to get out of their own way. Then, when you find out that he’s really a jerk (more on that in a minute), the obvious conclusion is that she will realize what a gem Aaron really is, and go running back to him. But no. Instead, the three of them don’t see each other again until more than five years later, and none of them seem particularly happy (maybe it’s just the awkwardness of the meeting). Personally, it left me feeling like I had just wasted two hours – why watch the relationships between the three of them evolve and develop if they all end badly? As for the aforementioned jerk-iness of Tom, I was a little confused by this. Yes, Tom is a tool for fake-crying during the interview, but he actually did well up at the time it happened; another crew member noticed, said that it was moving, so he cried on cue, filmed it, and edited it in. I’m not really sure how this is a breach of ethics – it seems like smart TV to me. Yes, it’s news, but if that was his real reaction, was it really a huge deal to go back and add it in? Apparently, though, it’s the ultimate betrayal for Jane, because she absolutely flips a gourd. Then we have that terrible ending. The rest of the movie is funny, and Jane is endearing in her neuroticism, but the ending totally ruined things for me.
RATING: Good, but sunk by a bad ending.