Film Review – Morning Glory
Sometimes it’s nice to see a film that provides the warm glow that a good romantic comedy can, but without romance actually being the focus. Morning Glory, from director Roger Michell, serves up that feeling in a breezy sort of fast motion, acted out by a lot of extremely talented people who look like they are having a great time.
Rachel McAdams is Becky Fuller, a producer on a morning news program who is by all accounts amazing at her job, but still becomes the victim of downsizing. I often give a film a lot of credit for the clichés it avoids, and Morning Glory earned points with me right away by not following this setback with a montage of Becky eating ice cream, Becky refusing her friends’ telephone calls, etc, etc, before picking herself back up again. She is determined and motivated to find a new job immediately, not because someone else snaps her out of a funk, but because that is her nature. I was on board with this character right away.
Becky gets her second chance at being an executive producer from Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum, underused here and, in my opinion, by the universe in general), a suit at the unfortunately-abbreviated fictional IBS network. She takes over their clunker of a morning show, Daybreak, which has seen something like 11 EPs in the last fifteen years, according to longtime anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). It goes without saying that Becky believes she will be the one to succeed. And goshdarn it, so do we!
Then Becky goes and creates a bigger problem for herself by firing smarmy co-anchor Paul McVee (Ty Burrell, a.k.a. dad Phil on Modern Family) on her first day. Luckily, the network has a contract it’s not capitalizing on with veteran TV journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), and she boldly invokes a clause that says if he doesn’t take any job the network offers him, he loses his final two years of salary (that’d be $6 million). Why the network isn’t properly using Mike already is sort of a mystery, but we let that go as the film promptly becomes “The Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford Have Surprisingly Awesome Antagonistic Chemistry Show.” Mike, a curmudgeon with a drinking problem, is less than ideally suited to the world of morning news, but Becky remains unwavering. Various hijinks and shenanigans ensue as she tries to keep him in line and somehow use his gravitas as part of her plan to boost ratings. Most of what goes on is legitimately very funny. Ford has a great way with a one-liner, and McAdams more than holds her own against him.
Oh, ok, the film does sneak a bit of romance in along with the workplace story. Patrick Wilson shows up as a producer on another show, who worked with Mike in the past and tries to warn Becky away. They fall for each other, inevitably. But this bit of Becky’s story remains firmly secondary, and I was relieved that at no point does the film really say that workaholic Becky should choose love over career. This is not to say that we avoid the issue completely (we’ve already seen Becky on a first date with someone else that was ruined by her inability to put away her Blackberry), but it always treats her choices as legitimate choices, and her passion for her job as a valid passion. I appreciated that immensely.
Though our supporting characters are not as fully developed as Becky, I cared about what was going to happen to them, and to the show. Harrison Ford in particular is just fun to watch as Mike clashes with everyone around him, and the film is effectively subtle in its hints as to why Mike is the way he is. Diane Keaton’s Colleen could have been a bigger part of the action, but the time she does get entertains. Her character at first seems like well-worn territory, but she gets to have a couple of surprising moments of her own as she throws herself into Becky’s crazy schemes.
Morning Glory’s writer Aline Brosh McKenna has written some good films (notably, The Devil Wears Prada) and at least one that is truly awful (27 Dresses). Here, she adds to her successes. The quick pacing and the respect shown for the characters make for something pleasing, which is further elevated by the caliber of the cast. The film is a lark, but it’s a smart and fun lark, and I welcome those.
Final Grade: B+