09 May 2011
Poor Howard Beale. The guy never really had a chance. From the first minute of the story we're told he is a once-great now-faltering anchor who has devoted his life to television news. He snaps, and then they encourage him to spiral downward, and he does. And then they encourage him to spiral further downward, and he does. And then when the execs and the President no longer agree about his usefulness, they exploit him for one final ratings explosion, and that's that.
There's so much written about Lumet lately, his style of directing and the kinds of stories he told. And plenty has been written about Network over the years -- its prescience, its clever raving dialogue, its heart-in-the-right-spot heavy-handedness. I don't have much to add to either debate right now. Here are some disconnected reactions: I love Ned Beatty's scene. I'm consistently impressed with the whole case -- Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway especially -- for making such mealy-mouthed writerly speeches feel natural, or at least real, in an emotional sense. But of course the dialogue is great, and I want to watch or read more Paddy Chayefsky scripts. William Holden re-telling his bridge-report story reminds me of Brad retelling the Shania Twain/tuna story from I Heart Huckabees. Duvall is fun to watch get pissed off. Faye Dunaway is one of the most beautiful portrayers of damaged goods cinema has ever had.