Talk Radio (1988)
Reviewed on 2011 March 31
This is a well-made ’80s movie that says a lot about our lowbrow, celebrity-obsessed and reality-tv soaked culture today. The year it was made is irrelevant; there’s nothing really to age it, except Alec Baldwin is young and not yet crazy.
Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) is a pre-Howard Stern, pre-SIRIUS shock jock with a Dallas late night talk show that attracts a cult following. He also draws more than a few lunatics who seem to have nothing better to do than listen to his show, then call him up to tell him how much they hate him. Normal people would throw in a Hendrix CD or turn the dial, but Barry is a loon magnet, and a group of neo-Nazi pinheads have a special hatred for him because he also happens to be Jewish. Barry may be a ratings draw but he is not a nice guy. For a while it’s a toss-up as to who gets the shoddier treatment, his girlfriend and colleague Laura (Leslie Hope) or his ex-wife, Ellen (Ellen Greene). Besides being his own worst enemy, Barry’s life is becoming exponentially more complicated. His show is about to go national, as long as he doesn’t crunch the head off the suit Dan (Baldwin) and the Nazi saber-rattlers are escalating their threats against him.
This is based on the story of Alan Berg. (If you don’t know the story, Google it after you watch the movie.) Oliver Stone directed, and co-wrote the script with Eric Bogosian. Bogosian also wrote the play, and I think that’s one of things that helped the story make the transition from stage to film very nicely. It’s great to see Michael Wincott, the same guy who gave us the evil Top Dollar in The Crow and the mercenary Frank in Alien: Resurrection, play Barry’s new stoner BFF here. It took me a while to place him, thanks to the make-up crew and his acting.
Three chocolate morsels.