Monday, 23 May 2011

Best Actor 1987: William Hurt in Broadcast News

William Hurt received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Grunick in Broadcast News.

Broadcast News is a rather 80's film about hard working news producers Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and two television reporters who are also her potential suitors the good reporter, but lacking in charisma Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), and the less able reporter but charismatic Tom.

William Hurt second two nominations seem to be those of the more traditional leading man especially compared to his greatest work in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Hurt's performance as wannabe major news anchor though is actually a performance as the false leading man. The falseness is something lead to in quite a brilliant fashion by William Hurt though and not at all the simple portrayal it might seem on the surface. When we first meet Tom though he seems nice enough as he genuinely asks Jane what he really could do to do something that really meant something in the world of televised journalism.

Hurt makes a interesting dynamic within Tom early in the film as a man who is one thing but wants to be something else. On one hand Hurt gets the the look and the style of a new anchor perfectly. He is exactly how he should be in deliver and stature. Hurt has that great false yet all too believable style in which he seems invested in every single news story even though he may not really understand much of anything when it comes to the details of what any of the stories mean. Tom's lack of knowledge and perhaps intelligence is all well handled by Hurt because he makes it a genuine inability of Tom.

Hurt doesn't mind showing that Tom just is not that smart but is willing to try to be more then he is. Hurt is just so earnest when Tom is trying to find substance in what he does with the help of either Jane or Aaron his romantic rival for Jane. Hurt has Tom intent to try something but what is always underlying in these scenes is that Tom just doesn't have more to find. Hurt brings it to just a point every time which portrays the weakness of Tom to make that extra step. Hurt's is a great portrayal of just a man simply not getting it even though he does desperately desperately try.

Tom being photogenic but unable to understand the finer details actually works into to the romantic angle of the film even though Hurt makes this one a bit different. Hurt again makes Tom charming as when he woos Jane and again there is the same earnestness to make it all work that is even greater then his wishes in the newsroom game. Hurt does have the substance as Tom here in that the wish for a real relationship with Jane is apparent. Where Hurt shows the weakness comes from this time is again his inability to connect with the professional life and make the understanding that Jane's job is very close to being her life.

Hurt really has a thankless role but one that should not be taken for granted as Hurt gives a enjoyably measured performance as a man of very little substance. Hurt doesn't fall in with the low substance of his character finding the right humor, the right personality and even the right charm to make Tom Grunick really work as character. The whole time Hurt plays just the right fine line in his performance because he is likable, he even allows sympathy for Tom but he still makes Tom well just a little dumb and far less then the way he appears on television. He achieves just the right balance giving a very enjoyable performance that also fulfills the place Tom should represent within the news and love triangle of Aaron, Jane and Tom.


mrripley said...

he is totally bland as always!!

Sage Slowdive said...

I like him too this year.

hey deanie said...

I thought he was brilliant!

Michael Patison said...

This is one of my top ten favorite films of the decade though I did feel that Hurt's performance was indeed the weak link of the bunch. That was, however, a product of Hunter's and Brooks's brilliant portrayals and Hurt's character's relative lack of characterization.