The most obvious reason to watch Network is that it is a satire on television that now looks almost like reality TV. However, it also plays as a wonderful drama about old men searching for relevance in a changing world.
While the focus is on Peter Finch’s fantastic performance as Howard Beale, William Holden’s Max Schumacher provides a counterpoint to Beale’s maniacal outbursts by projecting a quiet desperation of his own. It is this desperation, I suspect, that causes him to be fascinated with Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). To Schumacher, I suspect that Christensen isn’t so much a desirable woman as a symbol of what he once had — he is her link to the world that is no longer his domain.
Beatrice Straight, who plays the William Holden character’s wife, is pretty much part of the furniture for most of the movie’s running length. But when he confesses to his affair, she lets him have it with both barrels:
Get out, go anywhere you want, go to a hotel, go live with her, and don’t come back. Because, after 25 years of building a home and raising a family and all the senseless pain that we have inflicted on each other, I’m damned if I’m going to stand here and have you tell me you’re in love with somebody else. Because this isn’t a convention weekend with your secretary, is it? Or – or some broad that you picked up after three belts of booze. This is your great winter romance, isn’t it? Your last roar of passion before you settle into your emeritus years. Is that what’s left for me? Is that my share? She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage? What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I’m your wife, damn it. And, if you can’t work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance. I hurt. Don’t you understand that? I hurt badly.
If you hadn’t watched Network, and someone were to tell you that the woman won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress on the strength of one scene, you might wonder if it was a case of disproportionate rewards. Now go watch this scene and tell me if you still feel that way.