Saturday, August 11, 2007

David Denby

"As Jane Craig, the central character of the chatty, compulsively entertaining Broadcast News, Holly Hunter has the fissionable energy of Mickey Rooney loaded into a small, wiry but lovely frame. A network-news producer in Washington, Jane lives at the edge of her nerves, pushing the people around her harder and harder even when she's feeling close to collapse herself. As the seconds tick off before a broadcast, she becomes as reckless as a stunt flier, laying in visuals and narration down to the last possible moment. She's one of the rare female movie characters about whom one could immediately say, "That woman is talented at what she does."

"The same is true of Hunter (New York, December 14), an intense and witty young actress whose mouth curls up at the corners and whose eyes crinkle merrily. Not only does the camera love that face, which is both rabbity-eager and beautiful, but the microphone has developed a serious crush on her voice--full, honeyed Georgia tones, shaped with the special verve and emphasis that only southern women seem to have. Earlier in 1987, in Raising Arizona, Hunter was very funny as the southwestern trailer-home wife who bullies her husband into making off with another couple's baby. She was tigerish, and she stayed deep within the character's convoluted moralism (the woman saw herself as righteous, as if baby theft were a test of character).

"Broadcast News is too much like a sitcom to be a great movie, but Hunter has a great part. She plays an obsessively ethical person, a news purist who sees the corrupting influence of "show business" everywhere in her profession. Jane is a neurotic and a scold, but she gets away with it because she's obviously so hard on herself. She's the most sympathetic version yet of a new type of movie heroine, the all-work-and-no-play girl--the professional dynamo and control freak who's afraid of the emotional abandon that a sexual relationship might bring. Since Jane likes men, she suffers some rather poignant dilemmas. How, for instance, do you get into bed with an attractive man once you've criticized his ethics? (You don't.)

"When no one is looking, Jane removes the plug from her phone, takes a deep breath as if to compose herself, but then falls to pieces, her face collapsing into sobs; quickly, she pulls herself together and jumps back to the top of the game. What's original about Hunter's performance is the sense she conveys that Jane is discovering herself as she goes along, forever stumbling into some fresh corner of her mind and emotions. Hunter never does anything the same way twice; she's a startlingly direct and spontaneous actress."

David Denby
New York, January 4, 1988