Morning Glory – Review


Rachel McAdams helps elevate a comedy about infotainment

We’ve all seen Morning Glory before. James L. Brooks made these types of comedies an art form with Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets. Now we get films that seem interchangeable from one other thanks to the likes of Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) and Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) – two female filmmakers who have put their stamp on the Brooks formula.

Morning Glory feels like the morning version of Broadcast News, and maybe that was the intent. It’s a comedy that has a tinge of romance, a repartee amongst colleagues that is sometimes fun-loving and other times cantankerous, and it observes the social challenges that are involved with a single, but determined, female trying to find success in a workplace that is below second rate. However, while the comedy may touch on these three characteristics, it is a light touch. It’s as if the filmmakers had a laundry list of chores to do and simply checked them off one by one. Need some veteran actors and a star that has a smile that can light up Central Park? Check and check.

Directed by Roger Mitchell (Notting Hill), from a screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), co-producer J.J. Abrams did well in ensuring that he had the right people to make the comedy. But while past successes could be seen as a good measuring stick for future endeavors, it brings with it a false hope. Be honest, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are instantly recognizable for Notting Hill, not Mitchell. And Prada had a devilishly great performance by the best actress living or dead. Those were star vehicles through and through. Morning Glory is just a comedy that is entertaining in spurts but is ultimately a glossier version of a network sitcom. Without Rachel McAdams as the star, this is a wait-for-it, “new classic” on TNT comedy in the making.

From mean girl to working girl, McAdams is the career-minded Becky Fuller. Overworked and undersexed she’s like Liz Lemon, but with better fingernail polish and bangs. Waking up at two in the morning to produce a fledging New Jersey morning talk show, she is unceremoniously booted by her boss. She was thinking promotion, but the station was moving to a more business-oriented model of operations and she became expendable. Constantly sending out resumes in the sea of unemployment without much interest, she finally gets a nibble when Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum), an executive with the fictitious IBS network that competes with ABC, NBC, and CBS, calls about a new opening for his morning show, Daybreak. Without even finishing his sales pitch, Becky has already bought it.

She should have read the fine print.

Daybreak is running on fumes. It can’t compete with Today or Good Morning America or whatever CBS is calling its morning program these days. Underfunded and understaffed, and working with antiquated equipment, Becky has her work cut out for her. But this new age Mary Richards won’t be denied. To shake things up, she fires the male co-host (Modern Family‘s Ty Burell), who keeps a foot-fetish blog, and replaces him with veteran, and more serious-sounding, newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford). He is paired with female anchor, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a former Miss Arizona who gravitated to morning news eons ago because of her perky personality. Neither can stand each other, as their personalities clash on and off the set. Ratings continue to drop and if Becky can’t get out of the ratings cellar in six weeks, the show will get canned. It’s only when she follows the YouTube model of attracting viewers that Morning Glory is at its most outrageous and comedic best. 

Rachel McAdams’s performance as Becky Fuller, full of life despite her hardships, is the best thing about the comedy. As much so, this could be a stepping stone for the actress like it was for Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, which bridged the gap from The Princess Diaries to Rachel Getting Married. Her character is able to overcome sit-com contrivances (i.e., the goal-crushing mother, and inter-office romance) and make it work. Away from the confines of the studio the film hits a lull. Her budding romance with a fellow news producer (Patrick Wilson) feels shoehorned into the script.

Harrison Ford’s voice competes with Batman and Clint Eastwood in terms of the amount of gravel-chewing. It is fun to see him as this once revered newsman who has to do morning news because of a clause in his contract. Still, this grumpy grandpa act is comic relief at best with a character arc that ends in predictable fashion. Diane Keaton is totally at ease in her role as the Kathie Lee Gifford to Ford’s Dan Rather. Plus it is fun seeing her work with McAdams again, having previously worked together on The Family Stone.

Morning Glory is a hard movie not to like. It has some good laughs and is overall entertaining, but the conventional manner of the story with lulls and mistimed dramatic bursts in the musical score affect one’s enjoyment.

And besides Rachel McAdams’ performance, it is the idea behind the future of news that people will be talking about once they leave the theatre. The argument is made in the film (but is evaded) if hard news has a place in a landscape of reality shows and TMZ. It is an interesting topic for discussion that I wish had been elucidated on. Still, filmgoers looking for an easy-going comedy that will leave them with smiles, Morning Glory looks to be the story.

Director: Roger Michell
Notable Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Ty Burrell, Jeff Goldblum
Writer(s): Aline Brosh McKenna

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