Film Review: “Morning Glory”

by Jason LeRoy on November 10, 2010

Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford in MORNING GLORY

starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Ty Burrell, Matt Malloy, John Pankow, Patti D’Arbanville

directed by Roger Michell

rated PG-13

Morning Glory is a pleasantly diverting, relentlessly formulaic workplace rom-com. Rachel McAdams carries the entire film on her man shoulders (Mean Girls joke!) in an electric performance as Becky Fuller, a bustling 28-year-old career girl who produces the morning show for a small New Jersey affiliate station.

Becky’s work/life balance is a bit off, as they say. The film opens with her bombing a blind date with Ellen’s poor murdered husband from Damages (Noah Bean) because, of course, she can’t stop talking about work and her boss keeps calling her. Also, it’s a senior-friendly afternoon dinner date due to her insane morning-show schedule (one of the film’s few reliable sources of humor).

But when Becky is suddenly fired to make room for a more qualified candidate, her life is turned upside-down — until she lands a new job (in New York City!) as the executive producer for a struggling morning program called Daybreak, for a fictional network called IBS. Yes, the network is called IBS – as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Lolz! But there aren’t any jokes about this in the movie, which makes me wonder if they realize that it’s funny. This is a movie that attempts to mine every laugh it can, so either they left the IBS gag on the cutting room floor, or I just spend too much time making IBS jokes.

While Becky is maniacally overjoyed about her new job, all is not well at Daybreak. They are perennially last in the ratings. Their budget is zilch. The on-air talent is dubious. The co-anchors, embittered Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and lecherous Paul McVee (Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell, whose brief appearance elicited yelps of delighted recognition from the audience), despise each other. And the network, in the form of executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldbum), is constantly on the verge of dropping the axe.

But Becky is entirely too plucky to succumb to such dire circumstances, so she hatches a scheme to shake up the program with new viral-friendly segments and a respected new co-anchor: cantankerous Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a Dan Rather-style Serious Journalist looking to ride out the last few years of his contract. But then [insert expected series of conflicts here]. Will Becky’s plan succeed? Will Daybreak survive? Does the phrase “no doy” mean anything to you?

Morning Glory is directed by Roger Michell, who proved his rom-com mettle with Notting Hill in 1999, and has moved on to direct such well-received British fare as Enduring Love and Venus. But  more tellingly, it is written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who got her start writing forgettable flicks like Three to Tango and Laws of Attraction and became rom-com royalty with The Devil Wears Prada. But that was an adaptation, and she followed it up with an original script for the wretched Katherine Heigl vehicle 27 Dresses.

So where does Morning Glory fit into all of this? Basically, it’s McKenna’s take on Broadcast News. Or, alternately, it’s 30 Rock re-imagined as a glossy big screen rom-com about a morning show. The parallel works out pretty neatly: McAdams is Liz, Goldblum is Jack, Keaton is Jenna, Ford is Tracy (more or less), John Pankow is Pete, and golden god Patrick Wilson (as Becky’s love interest) is Liz’s fabled Astronaut Mike Dexter. It’s missing a Kenneth, but makes up for it with other randomly quirky cast and crew members. And in the rivalry between Keaton and Ford, there is also a direct ripoff of one of the jokes in Anchorman (the two anchors duel over who gets to say the last “goodbye” of the broadcast, which was funnier the first time around).

The big news here is Rachel McAdams. As Reese Witherspoon elevated Legally Blonde and Anna Faris transcended The House Bunny, so McAdams rises far above the material she’s been given. Simply put, she is the life force that keeps this film moving. This big brassy lead performance comes as a pleasant surprise, as McAdams has mostly toiled away in supporting roles or little-seen films since her epic 2004 breakthroughs in Mean Girls and The Notebook. But now she bursts back onto the blockbuster stage with a winning, engaging performance that ranks as her best yet.

I wish I could be as complimentary about the rest of the cast, but they don’t give McAdams much competition. Harrison Ford purrs and growls his way through yet another curmudgeonly performance. He just seems…unwell. And in her mildly amusing supporting turn as Colleen, poor Diane Keaton continues to tarnish her legacy as the most game-changing actress of her generation. Is she bankrupt or something? Someone needs to tell her to stop following the Samuel L. Jackson Plan of accepting every role you’re offered.

So, while Morning Glory suffers from an uninspired, derivative script and asleep-at-the-wheel performances from two former matinee idols, it is also fast-moving and engaging, and shines a welcome spotlight on the incandescent charms of Rachel McAdams.

RIYL: chick flicks, rom-coms, behind-the-scenes TV comedies

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorgon November 11, 2010 at 2:05 am

Don’t forget, “Recommended if you like Rachel McAdams.”

Reply

Dorgon November 11, 2010 at 2:05 am

Don’t forget, “Recommended if you like Rachel McAdams.”

Reply

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