Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie Review: Morning Glory

Morning Glory *** ½
Directed by:
Roger Michell.
Written By: Aline Brosh McKenna.
Starring: Rachel McAdams (Becky), Harrison Ford (Mike Pomeroy), Diane Keaton (Colleen Peck), Patrick Wilson (Adam Bennett), Jeff Goldblum (Jerry Barnes), Ty Burrell (Paul McVee), John Pankow (Lenny Bergman), J. Elaine Marcos (Lisa Bartlett), Matt Malloy (Ernie Appleby).

Rachel McAdams is so sweet and lovable in Morning Glory that you cannot help but root for her. When we first meet her, she is working as a producer on a morning show in New Jersey, and hoping for a promotion – instead she gets fired because of cutbacks. She tries everywhere else she can find, eventually landing the job of executive producer on Daybreak – which is a national, Network show. But this isn’t all good news – the ratings are terrible, the morale is the staff is horrible and the show is essentially a joke. But McAdams’ Becky is determined to improve the show by any means necessary. Her first act is to fire the sexist co-host, and replace him with Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), who used to be the network news anchor, but got canned from that job for being too boring. He is still under contract to the network, and if he wants his millions of dollars, he has to work for them. But he views Daybreak, and all shows like it, as the antichrist of news – it isn’t real news, it doesn’t matter, and since his contract gives him a lot of control, he makes it miserable for everyone there.

The situation is kind of the reverse of James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1987). In that film, Holly Hunter is a producer who cared about the “real news” and she was saddled with William Hurt’s idiot new anchor, who was very good at the theatricality of news, but not at the real stuff. Back in 1987, there was a real debate about “news” vs. “entertainment”, and that added some resonace to that movie – but as Becky points out of Mike in this movie “They have been debating news vs. entertainment for years and guess what? Your side lost”. She isn’t wrong, and while many may not like this trend, she’s right, and the movie fully embraces her viewpoint.

Morning Glory adds in other characters besides Becky and Mike, but it really does remain their movies. Patrick Wilson is fine as Becky’s obligatory love interest, another producer on a different show who calls Mike the “third worst person in the world”, but it really is a throwaway role. I was quite impressed with Diane Keaton as Collen Peck, the veteran anchor of Daybreak who is resistant to both Becky and Mike when they come aboard – but a professional in that she will try anything. Jeff Goldblum even gets some nice scenes as a network executive.

But as I said, the heart of the movie is McAdams and Ford, and because they are both so great, the movie works probably much better than it has any right to. McAdams is lovable – she has a wide open face and the giddy optimism of a school girl, that is just infectous. Yet, she also does a good job at projecting an air of professionalism. You believe her as a executive producer on this type of show – she knows what she is doing. When I see Harrison Ford in interviews he always comes across as somehow who just doesn’t care – and wishes he was somewhere else. In movies, he has pretty much coasted on his charm for the last 20 years or so, rarely challenging himself. I’m not sure if this role was much of a challenge for him either, but he certainly does seem to have fun with it. Perhaps he did it because, for once, he gets to act like an asshole for most of the movie. We know eventually that Becky will wear him down – she is too nice not to – but I really liked Ford when he was in full blown asshole mode here. It is one of the few times in recent years where I can say I genuinely liked him in a movie.

Morning Glory doesn’t really do anything new – and for that matter it doesn’t do what Broadcast News did 23 years ago as well as that film did. Yet, what it sets out to do, it accomplishes. This time of year, I spend most of my time catching documentaries and heavy hitting dramas that are trying to get into the Oscar race. Morning Glory is pretty much the perfect antedote for that. This is a movie that just makes you feel good. Its made with wit and intelligence by director Roger Michell (who alternates between projects like this and Notting Hill, and darker British dramas like Enduring Love and The Mother), and the screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna is clever and funny. The cast gives it there all. In short, while Morning Glory may be exactly the movie you expect it to be from the previews, it is a hell of a lot of fun.

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