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Morning Glory (2010) **1/2

November 10, 2010

written by: Aline Brosh McKenna
produced by: J. J. Abrams & Bryan Burk
directed by: Roger Michell
rated G-13 (for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references)
1 hr. 35 min.
U.S. release date: November 10, 2010
The 1933 film “Morning Glory” earned Katherine Hepburn her first Best Actress Oscar, but Rachel McAdams, who shines in a brand new “Morning Glory”, will have to wait for her first Golden Boy. That’s no slight on her proven skills, nor does it mean she isn’t giving it her all here. In fact, it’s just solidifies that she is far more than just a fantastic smile with cute dimples and dazzling eyes, although that helps. Especially when we see her rise above some silly plotlines and a director who vacillates from appealing shots to formula fluff. On second thought, maybe she should get an Oscar, just for that.

After getting canned from her gig on a morning news show in New Jersey, workaholic Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is determined to get a job on another television show as soon as possible. Despite her mom (Patti DÁrbanville, blink and you miss her) trying to suck the wind out of her already tattered sail by suggesting she give up on her dreams, resilient Becky sends out countless resumes and leaves continuous voice mails. She’s gonna exhaust someone into hiring her. That may be exactly how Jeffrey Barnes (a disheveled Jeff Goldblum, impeccable in every scene), program manager at New York network IBS , reluctantly hires her to executive produce “Daybreak”, a limp morning show stuck in fourth place. He thinks she’s in over her head, but is won over by her charm, sweetness and manic moxie.
But Becky lives and breathes these morning shows, having wanted to work on the “Today” show since she was eight years-old. Her naysayers include longtime diva co-host and former beauty queen, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton),  flighty and chatty and willing to anything. To everyone’s surprise, Becky manages to shake things up right from the start. She fires sleazy co-anchor, Paul McVee (a great cameo by Ty Burrell), implements some bold ideas, and then finds out that a hero of hers, old school anchorman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), is still under contractual obligation with IBS network. Getting the illustrious Pomeroy would not only add credibility to the show, it could possibly be a huge ratings boost.
Unfortunately, Mike sees the job as a humiliating blight on his award-winning career, and plays a mean hard to get, in true Grumpy Old Man fashion.  Once he does finally agree, what Becky hoped would be clever banter between Peck and Pomeroy winds up being on-air bickering.  Becky was warned by nice-guy, hunky producer Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), that Mike is “the third worst person in the world”, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to glean a personality out of him, before the plug is pulled on the show. Will Becky be yet another short-lived executive producer on “Daybreak”? Will Mike and his incorrigible ways wear her down or will she be able to lead an old horse to water and make him drink? Will her career go down with the show?
The best thing “Morning Glory” has going for it is McAdams. That’s a needed plus, considering it’s her character’s story. If the lead was a certain actress with the last name Heigl or Aniston, then it’d be called a “chick-flick” and you could expect more of the same rom-com fluff. Granted, there is still some of that here, combined with the “working girl” stereotypes we’ve seen now for decades, yet McAdams successfully navigates through it all, displaying great comic timing and an endearing charm. Few actresses her age can confidently handle the range she’s shown and like her previous films, she remains the highlight here.
Director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) subjects us to plucky pop songs that play repeatedly during unnecessary montages, and through it all McAdams remains the real deal. She gives Becky tangible emotion and heart without being drippy and handles her foibles without being dippy. Just like Becky marches into an environment surrounded by a veteran news crew, McAdams takes the challenge of working with seasoned actors head-on and never misses a beat. While it’s fun to see Keaton and Ford butt heads, it’s more of a delight to see McAdams interact with these two. Partly because it feels like Keaton and Ford are having fun with their characters.
Keaton’s role may be somewhat marginalized but she brings the right sass and narcissism it calls for. She seems confidant and content to let Ford saturate the screen with his sour puss.  Boy, does he lay it on thick! Sure, the role of Mike Pomeroy calls for Ford to be a full of himself curmudgeon but  it feels like he plays that one-note delivery entirely too long. By the time the character transforms in the third act, we’re just about done with him. It would’ve been nice to see Ford add a little bit of lightness (maybe more Brokaw), or even more smarm earlier on, instead of the grumbles and growls he gives us. Maybe I’m feeling this way because I’ve seen Ford park on this role on talk show circuits for the last fifteen or so years. Seeing him embody a character with it, a character that looks like he’d have more to offer, isn’t that much of a treat….unless he’s with Keaton or McAdams. On his own, you’d think Pomeroy would kick up his feet a little in his dressing room and take a break from his reputation.
Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada” & “27 Dresses”) has been here before. She has McAdams going head-to-head against the older bully this time and assigns her to those aforementioned conventions. McKenna doesn’t trust that the situation and characters can be real and funny all on their own. Instead, she has to inject ploying comic antics that drain “Morning Glory” of becoming the great movie it could be. Substitute more realism with that groaning humor, and we could’ve seen how real situations in stressful times can actually be funny all on their own. I wonder if she even knows that IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Yikes.
By focusing a little more on who the people are that report to Becky, and less on her forced meet-cute with Patrick Wilson, the story would free itself from some of the rom-com clichés. I guess the studio needed an excuse to have McAdams bop around in her fundies, not that anyone will complain about that.
Michell is working with cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler, who stylishly overshoots this picture with obvious formulaic sequences. One example is at the end, when Becky is interviewing for a job at the “Today” show after riding the wave of the resuscitation of “Daybreak”. In between air time, Pomeroy finds out where she is and knowing she’s watching (because everyone watches television during interviews) he suddenly barks for eggs and starts whipping up a frittata on the air. Becky sees this, immediately leaves her interview and runs across Manhattan, back to the studio. Cue the breezy pop music to coincide with slo-mo shots of Becky’s dress flowing through the air balanced with Pomeroy showing off his mad kitchen skills. Let’s just say, I wasn’t the only one rolling my eyes as this transpired.
Considering my problems with the film and the elements I would’ve changed, I still recommend it. It may not have an exceptionally sharp wit, but “Morning Glory” is funny, light, and absorbing. That’s all due to McAdams who gives Becky a smiling manic frenzy that tries to stay afloat amid a weary staff and two impossible anchors. Again, no Oscar for her, but I won’t discount her future chances. If only McKenna and Michell would’ve let the characters be and just exist in a morning news world with more satire and less farce, but hey, at least they threw in 50 Cent, G-Unit, Chris Matthews, Bob Schieffer, and Morley Safer!



3 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    November 10, 2010 10:26 pm

    I do love Rachel McAdams! 🙂 I’ll probably watch this when it comes to netflix, since I can’t afford to go see every movie at the theater, I save the theater for the movies I REALLY want to watch!


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