Thursday, February 17, 2005

Great Love Dialogue, #5

Broadcast News used to be one of my favorite movies. I say "used to" because I haven't seen it in well over eight years, and maybe more than ten. I'm not sure why that is, but sometimes things we greatly admire (or people) slip through the cracks in our lives, until many years later we think, "Hey, I used to really like that...."

Anyhow, Broadcast News is about a love triangle that takes place in the Washington news bureau of some unnamed TV network. The woman, Jane (Holly Hunter), is the news director (I think); her best friend is Aaron (Albert Brooks), a reporter who is long on journalistic integrity but not long on telegenic quality (as becomes apparent in a hilarious scene detailing his disastrous turn at anchoring the evening newscast). These two are not just friends, but comrades-in-arms: both are resisting the constant trend toward "dumbing down" the news.

But then along comes Tom (William Hurt), who is basically a big dumb lug who is also the smoothest, most natural TV news anchor ever. This is a guy who knows nothing about the issues, nothing about the news, nothing really about journalism -- but who has the uncanny ability to process words being fed through his earpiece during a Special Report into coherent anchoring. He's the type of person whose career flourishes while better journalists find their jobs threatened in the face of economic cutback.

So, obviously, Jane falls in love with Tom, even though he represents values she has been working against her entire professional life; and unbeknownst to her, Aaron is in love with Jane, because she is in a way his "Platonic Ideal" of a journalist.

All this comes to a head in a finely honed scene late in the film, when Jane goes to Aaron's apartment after his horrible stint as news anchor. Jane tells Aaron that she is in love with Tom, and after an angry knee-jerk reaction, Aaron calms down and tries to talk through his feelings:

This is important to me.

Yeah. Well...I think it is
important for you too. Sit down.

She sits. He walks to a desk and looks at her briefly... Silence.


(looking at her)
Let me think a second. It's

A remarkably long silence -- her mind wanders, she takes stock...
it is evident that he is straining to get it right, reaching
into himself.

(glancing at note)
Let's take the part that has
nothing to do with me. Let's let
me be your most trusted friend,
the one that gets to say awful
things to you. You know?

(testy and wary
but fair)
Yes, I guess. Yes.

You can't end up with Tom because
it goes totally against everything
you're about.

Yeah -- being a basket case.

I know you care about him. I've
never seen you like this about
anyone, so please don't take it
wrong when I tell you that I believe
that Tom, while a very nice guy, is
the Devil.

This isn't friendship.

What do you think the Devil is going
to look like if he's around? Nobody
is going to be taken in if he has a
long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm
semi-serious here. He will look
attractive and he will be nice and
helpful and he will get a job where
he influences a great God-fearing
nation and he will never do an evil
thing...he will just bit by little bit
lower standards where they are important.
Just coax along flash over substance...
Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about
all of us really being salesmen.
(seeing he's not
reaching her)
And he'll get all the great women.

She is getting pissed.

I think you're the Devil.

No. You know that I'm not.


Because we have the kind of
relationship where if I were the
Devil, you'd be the only one I

She's briefly impressed. He has a point.

You were quick enough to get
Tom's help when...

Yes, yes. I know. Right. And
if it had gone well for me tonight,
maybe I'd be keeping quiet about all
this...I grant you everything but
give me this...he does personify
everything you've been fighting
against...And I'm in love with you.
How do you like that? -- I buried
the lead.

He pauses to catch his breath -- breathing deeply through his

(an aside)
I've got to not say that aloud;
it takes too much out of me.

Sit down, stop.

Aaron slumps down -- it's been a long round.

I've never fought for anyone before.
Does anybody win one of these things?

I love that last aside -- "Does anybody win one of these things?" -- because it tells us that Aaron already knows that he's doomed here. It can't possibly break in his favor. All he can do is stand his ground, make his points, jeopardize a friendship, and watch Jane go off to be in a relationship that is just as doomed as his love for Jane already is.

But the best line in the whole scene, for me, is the perfect summation of what love is all about -- at least, for Aaron:

We have the kind of relationship where if I were the Devil, you'd be the only one I would tell.

And that, really, is probably when Aaron realizes that his love for Jane is doomed to remain unrequited: because he has to spell this out for her.

Broadcast News isn't a perfect film, by any means. But I feel like I should track down a copy.

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