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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Talk Radio': A Riveting Depiction of a Caustic Radio Personality Teetering on the Edge of Neurosis

Movie poster for Talk Radio (1988)

Talk Radio (1988) is scathing drama-thriller starring Eric Bogosian as Barry Champlain, a controversial radio personality in Dallas, Texas. Forthright and often outlandish in his opinions, Barry grows a fervid audience of both supporters and detractors while his ratings boom and he prepares for national syndication.

Told over the course of roughly 24 hours, the film centers on Barry's on-air "Night Talk" appearance where he berates his listeners and callers alike. Barry's many criticisms of modern American society take center stage, as he chastises right-wing values in particular while eschewing all sensitivities. Inviting ex-wife Ellen (Ellen Greene) to the station for her emotional support, Barry simultaneously trades barbs with station manager Dan (Alec Baldwin) while desperately clinging to his own venomous paranoia as a means to his burgeoning career.

Based on Bogosian's own Pulitzer Prize-nominated play (while incorporating elements of Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg by Stephen Singular), and directed by Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street) Talk Radio is a blistering depiction of the modern provocateur as cultural figure. Bogosian carries the show almost entirely while delivering a mesmerizing depiction of an unstable misanthrope immersed in the indulgences of his own success. Eye-opening and unforgettable, it's a unique 80's-era sleeper ripe for rediscovery.


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