November 10, 2010

Morning Glory

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Morning Glory

COMEDY:

United States, 2010

U.S. Release Date:

2010-11-10

Running Length:

1:42

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Profanity, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Rachel McAdams, Patrick Wilson, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, John Pankow

Director:

Roger Michell

Screenplay:

Aline Brosh McKenna

Cinematography:

Alwin H. Kuchler

Music:

David Arnold

U.S. Distributor:

Paramount Pictures

Subtitles:

none


Like the occasionally dark Broadcast News and the considerably bleaker Network, Morning Glory takes a peek behind the curtain of television newscasts and reveals that all is not as clean and ordered as it appears over-the-air. The film is at its best when it is at its most goofy, at times coming close to the laugh-aloud outrageousness of Will Ferrell's Anchorman. The central character, a cartoonishly cheerful, career-minded woman by the name of Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is endearing enough to make viewers forgive the half-hearted, clichéd ventures into her sit-com inspired life. Morning Glory succeeds when it captures the antics, rivalries, and petty acts of rebellion unseen by the cameras.

Becky is on a fast track to the top as a producer for a New Jersey morning TV show. Called into her boss' office with the expectation of a promotion, she instead learns she's being fired. His calling her "the best producer I've had to fire" is scant comfort. She sends out resumes everywhere without a bite until Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum), an executive for a fictitious "fourth network" (not ABC, NBC, or CBS), comes calling. His morning show, Daybreak, is on life support and he's looking for an unconventional executive producer to shake things up. Despite her youth and inexperience - or perhaps because of it - Becky is his choice. She gets off to an unpromising start, failing to hit it off with Daybreak's popular female anchor, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), and generating a palpable sense of animosity when she pegs out-to-pasture serious newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to provide the testosterone balance to Colleen's estrogen. Ratings take a nosedive and Becky learns she has six weeks to perform a miracle or face cancellation. So she pulls out the stops and that's when Morning Glory starts to become fun.

Becky isn't hard to like, but that's almost entirely as a result of the effervescence evident in Rachel McAdams' performance, not because the character's back story, which is a minefield of familiar sit-com situations, has any resonance. In fact, Morning Glory is at its worst when it follows Becky away from the studio. Her romance with evening news producer Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) is dull and lifeless. Poor Patrick Wilson serves no higher purpose than providing a good-looking love interest; the term "underused" doesn't do justice for this sort of role. Jeff Goldblum makes a lot more out of an even less meaty appearance. Then again, Goldblum can arrest attention by merely standing around in the background. Meanwhile, Harrison Ford recycles his performance from the Sabrina remake, right down to the predictable arc in which the icy sheath encasing his heart melts. Ford, it must be admitted, does pomposity exceedingly well. Diane Keaton is so good at her part that one can see her sliding effortlessly into an anchor's chair on a real morning show. (That would be a clever way to promote the movie.)

Nevertheless, despite the conventional manner in which the story is resolved, Morning Glory generates enough entertainment, good will, and genuine laughs to make it hard to dislike. Becky's enthusiasm is at times infectious and it's fun to watch the things she does to give some life to her dying show. Would that any actual morning program would be this spontaneous and lively... Despite maintaining its jovial tone, Morning Glory makes a serious point, although it does so with a lightness of touch that makes one wonder whether it's present as an afterthought. Like the aforementioned Network, this production wonders aloud about where television news is going and whether there's any place for hard news in a medium where reality shows and live-action tabloids rule. Ultimately, Morning Glory sidesteps the issue, perhaps recognizing that an honest answer to the question might kill any meager box office potential the movie has. Better not to dis a key demographic.

Finding a release date for Morning Glory created problems for Paramount. It's not the kind of high-minded production that appeals to Oscar nominators, nor does it have the sound and fury necessary to capture a teen crowd trolling for action. And, although it contains a lukewarm romance, the fitful chemistry between McAdams and Patrick Wilson doesn't tip this into romantic comedy territory. Morning Glory fits into a shrinking category: the old-fashioned, not-too-raunchy, character-based comedy. It's gentle, unforced and, despite its flaws, likeable. It doesn't blaze new trails or astound with its wit but, more likely than not, you'll leave the theater with a smile, and that's certainly worth a recommendation.

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