For Reel

Network (1976)
July 9, 2016, 2:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Sidney Lumet
3 Stars
NetworkForever branded with the unconquerable burden of being ahead of its time, Network encourages the sort of viewing that fulfills a very hollow impulse to make connections—it is an analysis no more worthy than reflecting on how Star Trek anticipated future technologies, as if that alone were a statement of its worth. In fact, Network is at its most enjoyable when considered as a reflection of the anger of its specific period in time. Removing Paddy Chayefsky’s script from the context of 1976 seems to be almost missing the point entirely. Like Peter Finch’s memorable diatribes, Network‘s best pleasures come as a guttural, desperate plea—the screenplay eventually becomes more problematic than sophisticated, but what is never lost is the base paranoia and anger at the center of it all. But what must have played equally regressive in 1976 as it does now is the relationship that forms between William Holden (brilliant, even if saddled with the most cringe-worthy material) and Faye Dunaway. Here, Dunaway is meant to be a stand-in for the television generation, void of empathy and human compassion. It is known that she sees her interpersonal relationships as if they were television sitcoms because that is explicitly stated by the script a handful of times. In these moments, Chayefsky’s film about television capitalizing on the anger and fear of the populous becomes a victim of its own paranoia—the radicals and the younger generation become the straw men, they being the ones who’ve long since been spoiled by television and are therefore unsalvageable. For such a progressive, risk-taking satire, Chayefsky’s self-important perspective on his chosen “other” creates as hateful a dynamic as the one he wishes to condemn. Regardless, even Network‘s trashiest moments are performed well, and a handful of the monologues are undeniably genius.

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