Director David Frankel’s most recent two films have been about journalists. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) was set in the offices of fictional fashion glossy mag Runway, while Marley & Me (now on general release) tells the story of South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his relationship with a hyperactive dog. Here, Frankel, whose father Max worked at the New York Times for 50 years, talks Time Out through his favourite films about hacks.
All The President’s Men (1976)
‘The movie that sticks with me the most and captures my own experience of newsroom life is Alan Pakula’s All The President’s Men. It’s the first of a series of films, including, say, Apollo13 and Frost/Nixon, which take a story where we already know the ending and yet make it gripping by revealing the details and depths of the characters. The chemistry between Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman is amazing, but more than anything, it conveys the real relationship between editors and writers and the ethical challenges that reporters face.’
Broadcast News (1987)
‘This captures the end of an era of broadcast journalism. In the history of TV news, this explores the end of the “Ed Murrow era”, if you will, when there was a real sense that these older, avuncular anchors were god-like. When Broadcast News was made, we were starting to see the rise of younger, more blow-dried anchors and there was a sense that news was becoming entertainment. The conflict between the old and truthful reporting versus the not necessarily great presenters who play a little fast-and-loose with the facts was wonderfully dramatised.’
The Paper (1994)
‘This movie captures the vocabulary of the newsroom. It also offers great analysis of a tabloid newspaper and how far people go for a story. It looks at the lines people cross, the nature of privacy and how to get a real scoop. It’s a great ensemble piece and the characters, also, are really identifiable.’
‘The original Christopher Reeve Superman is just great. The relationship between Perry White and Clark Kent is up there in the pantheon of editor/reporter relationships on film. There’s something very paternal about your relationship with a great editor, and the thing about Jackie Cooper’s performance as White is that he really comes through as the film’s father figure.’
Citizen Kane (1941)
‘What can you say? When I became aware of the film in the ’70s and ’80s, it initially seemed very remote to me, especially the type of journalism that it looked at. Growing up in the era of the New York Times where it was “all the news that’s fit to print”, there were barely any pictures, there certainly wasn’t colour, there was nothing racy and exploitative and there was no hint of tabloid. You could say that our culture has come full circle where we’re back to the pop psychology that was a plot device of Kane: trying to find out the meaning of his last words, the meaning of “rosebud”. And that, it seems, is very close to how journalists practice today.’
‘It may seem an obvious choice, but Paddy Chayefsky was almost visionary in the way he anticipated the rise of TV entertainment. It came out long before all the reality shows, in which you have massive exploitation of people and political movements for entertainment purposes. You also have the invasion of privacy and the incredible exhibitionism that is now commonplace. At the same time, we’re now seeing the end of the newspaper, and so when Peter Finch says “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more”, it represents the moment the world changed and feels more relevant than ever.’
Marley & Me is in cinemas now
David Frankel may think he’s compiled the definitive list of journo flicks, but how could he forget the following?
Will Ferrell is yet to repeat the superlative hilarity of this instant comedy classic. In it, he plays TV anchorman and jazz flautist extraordinaire Ron Burgundy, whose world is turned upside down by the arrival of female news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Packed with as many quotable lines as Withnail And I, which is really saying something.
A Mighty Heart (2007)
Angelina Jolie’s heart-and-soul portrayal of real-life journo Mariane Pearl went mysteriously under-recognised – surely a spot of husband thievery shouldn’t sully her awards haul? The story unfolds as Jolie’s on-screen hubby, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, is kidnapped by terrorists in Pakistan. Horrifying, but important, viewing.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Bill Murray’s turn as grumpy TV weatherman Phil Connors, forced to live the same day over and over again until he learns the error of his ways, surely deserves a place on the list. Not to mention the superior talents of Andie MacDowell, once again playing the romcom love interest with irresistible likeability*. No? Are you sure?
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Based on a book, which was allegedly based on super-scary American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, TDWP is by all accounts a fairly accurate representation of life as a junior member of staff on a top-selling glossy fashion mag. This was the movie that launched Brit actress Emily Blunt into the public eye, for all the wrong reasons. Definitely worth a watch, for all would-be mag hacks out there. Take note. No, seriously.
*Time Out would like you to note that this is sarcasm