Jim Brooks – Hit Maker.
In television, from the very successful – The Mary Tyler Moore Show – to the phenomenally successful – The Simpsons. In movies, from Terms of Endearment to Broadcast News to As Good As It Gets. Jim Brooks had “The Midas Touch.” Every project garnered gold…well not real gold, but gold-plated awards. Oh yeah, and real gold as well. Well, not actual real gold, but, you know, big money.
The man was doing well.
And then, after thirty-plus years of virtually non-stop triumphs, the Train to Hitsville came to a screeching halt. Spanglish – a whiff. How Do You Know – Strike Two. With the game on the verge of being called due to lack of interest.
The question is: “Wha’ hoppin’?”
Sideline snipers suggest that the super-wealthy Brooks was now “phoning it in”, or that he’d “lost his spark.” I don’t know Jim that well, but I do know this. Neither of those knee-jerk accusations is correct. Equaling his initials counterpart, James Brown, Jim Brooks is one of the hardest working men in show business.
What really happened was time, by which I mean its passage. Think of it this way. For over thirty years, Jim Brooks held the keys to the kingdom. Then somebody abruptly came in and changed all the locks.
As hard as he tries, the guy can’t get in anymore.
This is hardly new. Charlie Chaplin, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, then later, Woody Allen, Barry Levinson, Rob Reiner – all Oscar winners (or in Reiner’s case, an Oscar nominee) – followed the same inevitable downward slide. They knew how to do it…and then, after decades of commercial and critical approval…
This, as Chester A. Riley used to say, “revoltin’ development”, must have been hugely frustrating for them. Not to mention disconcerting, humiliating and “Ow!”
I imagine them furious about their predicament. “I do what I’ve always done, and it’s not working anymore. What the hell is going on!?”
What’s “going on” is that the formerly reliable conditioning process has gone inoperant. The rat who presses the bar and receives a shock rather than the expected pellet of food feels exactly the same way, I would think, though I am far from an expert on the emotional responses of rats.
Jim Brooks is not stupid. He sees what’s afoot and he makes adjustments. “The audience is younger; I’ll make my characters younger. Then I’ll cast actors that the kids today like.”
That’s not an actual quote; it’s an actual imagined quote. Jim Brooks talks a lot smarter than that. But the strategy is obvious. You can see it in Jim’s most recent movies.
Spanglish stars Adam “Happy Gilmore” Sandler. How Do You Know stars Reese “Legally Blonde” Witherspoon, Paul “Mr. Bromance Himself” Rudd and Owen “I Won’t Grow Up” Wilson.
“Younger actors playing younger characters. (DUSTING HIS HANDS TOGETHER) The job is done.”
Because, Jim Brooks of my imagination,
You wrote them old.
Sorry, folks. My back’s twinging up on me. I will wrap this up tomorrow.