Network is one of those classic films I haven’t seen until now, this one being centered around Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a fantastically successful newscaster whose luck started to change in 1969 when his ratings declined and he suffers the loss of his wife, leading to alcoholism and then losing his job.
With two weeks notice left to go before they give him his P45 (or whatever they used to give in the US, in 1976), he announces, live on air, that he’s going to blow his brains out on national TV a week from now….
On hearing this, you’d expect everyone in the control room to start doing their fruit, but… not a blip! Why? Because they’re not paying a blind bit of attention to him. And when it’s pointed out to them, panic stations ensue. However, surely something that’s even more shocking is some of the male haircuts in 1976!
Meanwhile, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) wants to turn the news show into something more entertainment-based in order to help the news network turn a profit for a change. And given his Howard’s bizarre behaviour and apparent prophecies, the network turn his ranting into a ratings hit, even though it’s more of a circus sideshow with the main man clearly suffering a mental breakdown, including the moment when he declares “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!!”
In fact, it’s the same kind of ranting you’d get if Russell Brand was put in front of a live camera every night at 7pm. If he took over Channel 4 News, for example. Can you imagine that? Horrific…
The film slows down a fair bit when Peter Finch isn’t onscreen, even though there’s some great talent on display including William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, the first two having been nominated as Best Actor and Actress, respectively of course, with Dunaway winning, but Holden losing out to Finch, who certainly gives what I’d consider a career best performance even though, I’m ashamed to say, I think this is the first film of his I’ve ever seen (I have a lot of catching up to do).
And I’m sure that that’s Tim Robbins making a cameo appearance in this film, a couple of times, but he has publicly stated that he did not appear in the film.
I don’t fully understand the talk of ratings and shares in the terms they use in this film, as their process is not quite how it’s done in the UK, but I can gather when one is falling.
As for the main man, Peter Finch is an absolute powerhouse, here. I hadn’t seen this film before now, and didn’t initially realise that the Finch died so soon after it was released, in fact it was even before the 1977 Oscars ceremony. Finch was planning to come out of self-imposed exile to Jamaica after the success of a film. I need to catch up with his body of work, and would’ve loved to have seen the films he would’ve made beyond Network.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.