Tuesday, September 22, 2015

AFI Top 100, #66: "Network" (1976)

Movie Stats:
Released 1976 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Sidney Lumet
Stars - Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall

Plot Summary:
When old dog TV news achor Howard Beale (Finch) has a mental break on air, studio execs decide to exploit him for their benefit. Holden co-stars as Max Schumacher, Howard’s best friend and fellow newsman; Dunaway as Diana Christensen, a young upstart lacking a conscience; and Duvall as Frank Hackett, the ruthless corporate shill.

Lots of blue language; sexy times; violence.

Bad Stuff:
It’s surprisingly melodramatic.

It’s too long. If it were even 15 minutes shorter, it would feel like less of a chore to get through.

It felt like the writer (Paddy Chayefsky) really plumbed the depths of the dictionary to come up with this script. On the one hand, it was nice to watch a movie that seemed a bit more erudite. On the other hand, it was very distracting when people kept talking in a way that real people don’t talk to each other.

Good Stuff:
It was true-to-life in a very uncomfortable (but good) way. It was timely when it came out and it remains timely now, 40 years later, which is a bit depressing when you think about it.

Dunaway’s character was absolutely chilling. She was excellent in the role.

I liked that it explored a lot of complex topics, such as: facing one’s own irrelevance and mortality; news as entertainment; the exploitation of the mentally ill for personal gain; and the pervasive, insidious influence of capitalism.

The Verdict:
This film has a lot to say. I’m not convinced that it does a great job of saying all of it, but I can appreciate a movie that remains relevant over time. I thought the “love story” was predictable to the point of eye rolling and it caused the vast majority of the unnecessary melodrama. The movie would’ve been better without it. Other than that, I thought it was fairly smart and clever and intricate, the kind of movie that you should see at least once. I mean, you probably already know the famous quote, don’t you want to know the context of it?

I give it 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

I watched it for that very reason. It did not make a tremendous impression on me, but now I've seen the quote in context. My brother LOVES this movie, which I find interesting.

balyien said...

I can totally see your brother loving this one. It really is quite clever in a lot of ways. The scene where the "revolutionaries," who've been given a reality show, are arguing about contract clauses was absolutely brilliant (and, it turns out, it was a rather accurate representation of what happened to most of the radicals from the 60s and 70s).