When Howard Beale a news anchor begins to have a breakdown live on TV during one of his broadcasts. Claiming that in one week he will kill himself live on air, something that no one in the newsroom really seems to be listening to and from that moment we see him exploited for ratings.
Network is a truly outstanding film. I thought I had to get that in nice and early during this review that will probably descend into a rather over the top gushing review due to the high quality of the writing, directing and then delivery from an amazing cast. The pacing is utterly perfect and watching this film in 2021 it appears everything that was feared from some characters in the film has actually come true.
Howard Beale’s very public outburst you would hope would cause people around him to help and find him the care he needed, however when Frank Hackett and Diana Christensen realise the ratings increased with each thing Beale says decide to keep putting him on the air. His long time friend and boss Max Schumacher is powerless to prevent any of this and is eventually sacked for attempting to stop his friend being exploited.
Diana Christensen is a career driven woman obsessed with succeeding and developing new television programmes which will be popular and drive up the ratings. It was never part of her job to get involved in the news team, this is an area which studios just accepted always lost money. When Beale starts his breakdown she has interest with her obsession of the points involved in the ratings. When meeting Max she was very forward with the married man and pushed to begin a relationship with him.
“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
The scene with that line repeated over and over really helped to highlight just how much Howard needed help. But when he was instructing people to get up from their chair and shout from the windows, something incredible happening not only in New York but around the country and that scene is utterly amazing and frightening all at once. People were not happy and now wanted to shout about it.
The Network revamps its programmes and has Howard Beale as a messiah like prophet being able to say pretty much whatever he wanted and unfiltered. Majority of this coming from Diana, something she is very proud of. She is not capable of switching off from it and it has consumed her whole life. This then transfers into her relationship with Max and causes a couple of arguments. Max having left his wife Louise after twenty five years of marriage to explore the relationship with Diana. That was a rather brutal scene and the brief amount of time won Beatrice Straight an Oscar.
One of the most powerful scenes for me came between Max and Diana after an argument the next day then going back over and through it all. He had been struggling with his age and seeing that his life was more coming to the end rather than close to the beginning. Diana only really cared about the ratings and obsessed with the figures, isn’t that something that has got worse over the years as even now streaming services are obsessed with how many people watch the different films and shows.
Even though director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky never actually meant the film to be seen as a satire, they wanted it to be serious. That is something that I feel as come full circle. Now we watch Network and see how it predicted so many things in the future of television. How people would be exploited constantly with the introduction of reality tv and then how viewers would become obsessed with this, leading to many truly horrendous shows and “stars”. I can imagine at the time that people just found it to be a little bit funnier than it probably comes across now.
The performances are on another level with Peter Finch having the breakdown as Beale so incredibly on screen. Having to act in that why must have been physically exhausting and he became the first actor to posthumously win an Oscar having sadly died before the ceremony. I was probably even more blown away by William Holden’s performance which I know probably seems a little bit strange considering Finch. But I felt Holden was given a difficult task in a very different way and felt as though I would be drawn towards someone like Max, yes I guess that means I have a lot of issues!
Faye Dunaway fully deserved her Oscar as well, I am sure at the time her character was rather shocking. You know being female and focusing on her career and not really being too bothered about men and the whole love/romance thing. To her sex was just sex and she couldn’t actually stop talking throughout it. Beatrice Straight was in the film for five minutes max and took home the Oscar with her performance opposite Holden and I guess you cannot really argue with that quality. Was also a pleasure as always to see Robert Duvall totally stealing moments in scenes as well, he really is one of the best. Another little bonus was seeing a rather young Conchata Ferrell in a small role, as before watching I had no idea that she was even in it.
Network was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning five of them for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Peter Finch), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Faye Dunaway), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Beatrice Straight) and Best Screenplay written for the screen (Paddy Chayefsky). William Holden was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ned Beatty Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director (Sidney Lumet), Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. I feel it is rather important to see these nominations, especially for the acting side as it really is top quality from the whole cast.