Talk Radio Movie Review by Jonathan Chisdes
Talk Radio
L'Chaim - March 2001


A few years before "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers" made Oliver Stone the most controversial director in Hollywood, he made a movie called TALK RADIO. This 1988 film focused on Jewish radio talk-show host Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) who is loosely based on Denver talk-show host Alan Berg who was assassinated in 1984. In addition to playing the lead role, Bogosian wrote the play upon which this movie was based, as well as co-authored the screenplay with Stone.

Night after night, Barry must keep the city of Dallas entertained by arguing on the air with anonymous callers about what is wrong with America. The callers vary incredibly in the subjects they wish to talk about, ranging from the woman who is afraid of her garbage disposal, to the neo-Nazi who threatens to murder Barry, to the young man for whom life is just one big party. Although the movie does not downplay the issue of anti-Semitism, it is shown to be only one of many aspects that ail society.

Reviewer Ben Stephens says it best when he describes "Talk Radio" as "a dark, brooding work that puts the seedy underbelly of American society under the microscope and comes up with some disturbing revelations. ... Bogosian sets the screen alight with what has to be one of the most intense and underrated performances of the last ten years, creating an enigmatic, affable yet unbearably arrogant anti-hero--a man blessed (or cursed?) with the gift of insight. He sees the real America and he despises what he sees, his disgust with many of the people who call in to speak to him is poignantly combined with a feeling of being trapped in a glass cage, powerless to do anything about the rot that is eating away at the heart of society."

Although the supporting cast does well--particularly performances by Alec Baldwin as the station's owner, Ellen Green as Barry's ex-wife, and John C. McGinley as the show's producer--this is clearly a one-man show; Bogosian could have performed it as a monologue.

But more than just a catalogue of what ails America, it is a character study of an angry young man who just cannot shut up. As the film progresses, Barry comes to a profound understanding of himself and the role of talk-radio in contemporary society.




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