I’m mad as hell and loving it!

by jasmine

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” 

I remember having watched Network for the first time a couple years ago and really finding it hysterically tragic.  It is an intelligent, hilarious, and terrifying American satire – this film in one word: “prescient.”

I was inspired to give this film a second viewing in light of the sensationalism surrounding the Casey Anthony trial, as well as the latest disintegration of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – a scandal just as incredible as the lengths the medium took to sell their paper and get their stories.  The keyword of this film: “sensational” – which was said a total of six times, by my count, throughout the movie in an overzealous fashion.

In a nutshell, writer, Paddy Chayefsky and director, Sidney Lumet combines each of their unique ingenuities to tell the tale of a dissolving TV network who exploits an unhinged news anchor’s rants and revelations about the mass media for profit and ratings.

Peter Finch as the mad prophet, Howard Beales, gives Chayefsky a powerfully riveting voice. The scenes between Finch and William Holden are some of the best-written scenes in any American movie. Finch is nuanced, and Holden gives a performance of savage sincerity.  However, the most alarming character of the film is Faye Dunaway’s, Diane Christensen.  She is masterly in her thin, neurotic, bra-less temper. She is a relentless hellion of journalistic amorality. Everything in this movie moves with the precision of an awakened soothsayer’s vision, which perhaps makes this one of the most frighteningly entertaining and funniest films of all time.

The political and cultural analogies throughout the movie are dated; and it’s ridiculously overwritten.  NO ONE is as articulate as the characters in this film, and I might presume, no one who works in television today is as literate as Diana Christensen. I doubt even some poet laureates or Eminem could spew as witty a remark as “muttering mutilated Marxism” and be convincing, but damn if that isn’t part of its charm.  Additionally, aside from Max Schumacher (William Holden), the characters are archetypes without an ounce of humanity, but it’s their two-dimensionality that works as a clear metaphor for Max’s seduction into the “shrieking nothingness” of television. Plus, the actors are so superb they make harsh caricatures into almost-sympathetic characters.  Even with these minor gripes, the core of Chayefsky’s and Lumet’s vision remains remarkably clear and eerily prophetic.

I’d be hard-pressed to find a film that provides a more brilliant social commentary – the exploitation of those in peril for the benefit of their bottom line.  It couldn’t be more relevant today. Turn on the news and you see sound bites of how horrific the War on Terror is; or how awful American society has become, yet it permeates the airwaves.  I could go on a tangent about our culture of “fear,” but that is a conversation for another time.  I’ll just leave you this quote from Diana Christensen to ponder, “The American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them.”  

Network (1976)

Director:  Sidney Lumet

Writer:  Paddy Chayefsky

Cast:  Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, and Peter Finch

Genre/Rating:  Drama/satire, “R”

My rating: 4/5 stars