Talk Radio (1988)

Talk Radio (1988) – This is the second of two films I saw in December based on a play by Eric Bogosian. Like subUrbia, the film was made by a director who I tend to be rather fond of (Richard Linklater for subUrbia, Oliver Stone for Talk Radio). Sadly both films I’ve found a little disappointing, and I think those directors I’m so fond of are to blame. The writing is strong (as expected of Bogosian) and the acting is well done (again, Bogosian). The playwright/actor plays talk radio host Barry Champlain, an outspoken social critic who’s views draw the ire of some callers. Specially he really pisses off a lot of racists. Being Jewish (though, given his stage name, not entirely open about it), he especially rags on the neo Nazis.  The movie takes place as a major syndication deal is in the works to send Barry’s voice all across the nation. Of course, as the movie goes on Barry’s already-confrontational relationship with his callers reaches a boiling point. There are some good supporting performances by Ellen Greene, Leslie Hope, Alec Baldwin, John Pankow, John C. McGinley, and a young Michael Wincott but the movie exists mostly as a showcase for Bogosian. Oliver Stone, who developed a flashier acid trip directorial style with later films like Natural Born Killers, does this one pretty by-the-book and the style of the film feels very dated. Also, as is often the problem with play adaptaions, the whole thing feels a bit stage-y even though some scenes are set outside the radio station. Talk Radio is worth checking out if you are a fan of Bogosian (who is showcased very well) but is somewhat lacking as a film.

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