It was quite obvious to me Morning Glory wasn’t going to stink. The talent and subject matter alone was enough to figure that out. The big question was whether or not it would manage to become something more than just another story of a character striving to rise above the odds and succeed in a world where all indications say they will fail. And while Morning Glory never really hits that note where you’re so caught up in the story and its characters that you aren’t able to notice the film’s faults, I was laughing quite a bit and found its exploration of today’s media to be quite timely with something of a sitcom flair.
Rachel McAdams stars as Becky Fuller, a recently-fired morning television producer with her eyes on “The Today Show” but without the experience to attain such a goal. However, an opportunity has just arrived, the show-runner for the New York-based fictional morning show “Daybreak,” best referred to as the last place national morning show. Given a short amount of time to turn the numbers around, Becky decides to shake things up sending their meteorologist (Matt Malloy) out to do the weather report while riding a roller-coaster, dressing up the show’s longtime co-host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) in a sumo suit and hiring the disagreeable, yet highly decorated TV anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to bring a little bit of name recognition to the proceedings.
The underlying goal is to make sure “Daybreak” doesn’t get canceled, but to tell this story Aline Brosh McKenna’s script primarily focuses on the head-butting between Becky and Mike. In fact, it’s easy to draw comparisons to McKenna’s previous script for The Devil Wears Prada, just replace Anne Hathaway with the far more likable McAdams and the Meryl Streep character enjoys a gender switch, becoming the far grouchier Harrison Ford. In the end our lead must make a big decision, but this is just the candy coated cliche layer that sells the film. Fortunately there’s a little bit of interesting meat to chew on as well.
As Mike Pomeroy, Ford embodies a character disgusted with the recent trends in news coverage. He holds himself to a higher standard and if it wasn’t for the fact he would lose $6 million, he never would have agreed to be on the show in the first place. His character explores the idea of “What is news?” and “What is entertainment?” These are questions that can be asked of nearly any form of news media nowadays as celebrity break-ups seem to get just as much airtime/headlines, if not more, than the mid-term elections and “Jersey Shore” stars get multi-page spreads in the “New York Times”. It seems news is getting closer and closer to the morals of the National Enquirer than the anchors Mike looks up to such as Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw. Mike may be grouchy and hard to work with, but I definitely feel his pain.
Ford’s performance is well-tempered. He never takes it too far, often left to roll his eyes or at times foreshadow what’s to come by effusively describing the steps to making the perfect Frittata. This, in fact, is the reason Morning Glory doesn’t move the dial too far. It’s terribly predictable and doesn’t strive for much more than passing entertainment. In these terms it works very well, primarily thanks to a strong supporting cast.
Diane Keaton’s role is surprisingly limited, but she is a well-established enough performer that she doesn’t need a lot of screen time to make her presence felt. Jeff Goldblum is perfectly cast as a network executive and Patrick Wilson fits the role of a news magazine producer who’s hot for Becky. Matt Malloy and John Pankow also deliver in solid supporting roles serving to hold the film together.
Of course, at the center of it all is Rachel McAdams who’s able to tackle a character with a peppy, go-get-‘em attitude and do so without also annoying the audience. She’s accomplished, professional and is allowed to show a human side. These character traits work in tandem to keep Becky and the movie from falling apart. Morning Glory establishes a certain tone and has a bit of a bumpy transition into its third act, but McAdams and Ford in particular are able to right the boat and pull it into shore to the point a late dash through Rockefeller Center is earned rather than serving as tedious filler.
Best of all, Becky’s a workaholic and while the downsides to being a hard worker are shown, she isn’t vilified for taking an obsessed amount of pride in her work the way similar movie characters are typically painted as missing out on life if they work too hard. Other films like this would have focused on how destructive Becky’s work schedule is to her life. Her life isn’t destroyed and, instead, the film proves hard work pays off and can be very rewarding — perhaps a message the PlayStation generation that keeps making me terrible lattes could learn from.
Oddly enough, like a good morning show, Morning Glory delivered the right amount of good times I needed at the end of a long day. It upped my mood even though I was able to notice it wasn’t an altogether perfect film. Sometimes we need something a little refreshing to get us through the day and this film managed just that for me.