Monday, February 02, 2009

"The Paper" (1994) - Movie Review

“The Paper” is high wire cinema. It has 24 hours in it packed with details in the desks you pass. Desks that barely allows inches for some one to swim through the office and jump on piles and piles of paper flying around. This is the office where Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton) comes off to be fired up because his paper got beat in a sensational racial crime story by other papers. One of that paper where he has an interview too. He gets up from his bed with his suit and tie side by his pregnant wife Martha (Marisa Tomei). Martha is on leave who works on the same news paper. It is the fictional “The New York Sun”. It is going to be a fun day for Henry, Martha and couple of his colleagues.

Ron Howard’s film is as the paper is a sensation. Its waves hits us with a rush of adrenaline. The morning starts and you see the senior editor Bernie (Robert Duvall) joking around and having fun with his staff in the meeting. When the three o’clock meeting does not start until three fifteen, you see him growl and chew up his pet reporters even if it means humiliating them for childish behaviour. Henry’s nemesis Alicia Clark (Glenn Stone) wants to show her power and Henry wants to rub dirt over her. The word fight in the end becomes a fist fight which brings down an otherwise great film. I will come to that later.

Yesterday is not a word they could use in the circles of this office. Henry does not want to go and work for a giant corporate news firm but he has to for his wife. Stability as it would stand becomes the strong point for a family that is going to increase by one. Every one knows he is going for an interview except him until the time comes. His mentor Bernie gives an advice that he is not a mentor for this decision of laddering career. In the midst of it is the story which would change the life of two black kids who were walking by a crime scene. Henry wants the story right but also wants to win over Alicia. It takes turns when the situation demands.

“The Paper” is all about being on the edge. So much happens in a single screen and we are consumed by attention deficit but Henry keeps his feet on the ground and takes the beating again and again from his colleagues, superiors and of course from his wife. He is on look out for the story and if that means stealing right under the nose of the editor of rival newspaper’s desk, he will do it. And he is in the process of being interviewed by the editor to add the extra spice to it. He dies for the job and it is an addiction for him.

What happens in a single day in the newspaper is believable as the urge for the story and headline which is going to get the attention of the passers by and support their next day running. The personal lives happening all in tandem for the screen to collide in the final scene in a hospital is ludicrous. Still the film has got on our curious nerve and we go along with it till we can. The minor glitch in the ending makes us bite our lip and wonder if only it had the sense to not jump out of the office. The ironic part is the chaos in the office with supplies seems to be too much for havoc is completely believable while the hospital where things go crazy becomes too contrived. That is the weak point of “The Paper” which grips us in swift screenplay for the major part of the film.

Michael Keaton cannot be more effective in his Henry Hackett. His character is funny and you can already see why Martha is in love with him and how she puts with the job he drains. Martha is hooked on to this job too when she is ready to go on and get details for a story Henry is digging on. Keaton is casual, smirky and smart mouthed which bugs Glenn Close’s Alicia. You would wonder Robert Duvall is a stereotype to these mentor roles but he has his own sense of humour to ripen this deal for perfect office jokes, curses and fun.

The characters in “The Paper” have many things happening around their life and each have a subplot which is not too much emotional but heavily expect disaster any moment. Apart from Henry and Martha, Bernie is in his old age ready for a treatment of prostate cancer which is getting a hold of him in his work. His distant daughter (Jill Hennessy) avoids him. Knowing he has been a jerk torments him. Alicia is the once hard and fast journalist in to the management chair hated by every one else. She has extended her arm more than necessary in her personal finance and the fear of Henry getting better than her drives her mad. And you have the office members floating around these people in making their day a little better and a little annoying with calculated volume. “The Paper” is the entertainment tough to produce. It needs smart writing and a thorough understanding of the environment it works on. Writers David Koepp with his brother Stephen Koepp gets it. The final minutes of the film hints whether the studio pushed for a Hollywood hoopla ending. The integrity of the media comes in question in the film and whether it lost during its film making is a question I would like to get answer. But then again it is a cruel world and as Henry many has to get up from the bed with the suit and tie on.

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