REVIEW: Morning Glory [2010]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 107 minutes | Release Date: November 10th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Roger Michell
Writer(s): Aline Brosh McKenna

“The anchors of the show are, ah, difficult and … semi-talented”

Director Roger Michell is a sleeper. Do you recognize the name? It rang a bell with me, but I couldn’t quite place where it was attached in the past. His newest work, Morning Glory, is much the same. All the promotional material used producer J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle as selling points, leaving the director’s identity far in the distance as something of worthwhile mention. Also, if you ask five people on the street that have heard of the film, but not seen it, four—if not all—will tell you it’s a romantic comedy. They couldn’t be more off the mark. Well, it’s not like there isn’t a romantic aspect to the story, there is. What’s most important, however, is the facet that the true impetus behind the plot is turning a fledging product around and making it something the public can appreciate and enjoy. Its steward is an unlikely girl with no experience, but what she lacks there is more than made up for in moxie. This is an underdog tale from start to finish and it has the humor and heart to sustain it.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is a bright young producer who has been aspiring to take over NBC’s “Today” since she was eight. Working on a local New Jersey show that starts at 4am due to marginally better monetization than infomercials, she has been waiting for some sort of promotion, a bone thrown to prove her worth. Our introduction to the character is on a disastrous blind date riddled with Blackberry ringing, caffeinated ramblings, and a palpable awkwardness. It’s fun for us to watch—and strangely fun for her to create due to a sense of low self worth and comical appreciation for her works powerful hold—as we understand her tenacity. When a sure-thing promotion turns into being laid off, that bulldog mentality of never giving up lands her in the studios of IBS, (Is it supposed to be funny that a morning show, whose new surly host suggests should be advertised with a “watch us before your morning dump”, is on a station with the same call letters as Irritable Bowel Syndrome?), and an opportunity to go against her dream job in the ratings game.

There is a reason her new baby, Daybreak, is last place behind “Today”, “Good Morning America”, and “whatever it is CBS has”—the show is in shambles. Its star anchor, Colleen (Diane Keaton), is a bitter woman who has watched imbeciles get fired, savants go on to greener pastures, and herself stay in the exact same place; its co-anchor is probably the most vain man alive, (a fantastic turn from Ty Burrell); and the team behind the scenes obviously hasn’t had any leadership steering the ship for quite some time. Well, everything changes once Becky arrives, showing her insane capacity to be on the ball in every facet of the game. Respect is cultivated and her courage achieves the opportunities to make some real strides … that all end up backfiring. Hiring the renowned journalistic equivalent to a Rather or Cronkite in this fictional world, Harrison Ford’s Mike Pomeroy, appears shrewd, but only brings on a egomaniacal cretin who had been leeching a paycheck without doing work for six months; her boss’s (Jeff Goldblum) almost nonexistent faith wanes with each passing day until the point of cancellation; and even a relationship with the ‘dreamy’ Patrick Wilson finds a way to be a distraction in her warped mind.

But it is exactly when the wheels start to fall off that Morning Glory gets good. The central crux doesn’t pertain to McAdams and Wilson’s chemistry, or even if they cultivate a bond, it’s about whether the show will die. It’s not Broadcast News, though—few things are. Think of this as a solid, poor man’s version of that contemporary masterpiece. Failure here isn’t a blindside fist to the face as it is in James L. Brooks’s film, instead we in the audience know it’s coming while the characters don’t. It may seem a minor difference, but that knowledge completely changes our viewpoint, almost guaranteeing some sort of miraculous turnaround to save the day. But before the clichés take over and characters experience thawed hearts without enough time to really believe it, there are some hilarious moments. Ford has made his twilight a steady stream of curmudgeon success and his snide sarcasm is a bright spot that only magnifies once Keaton gets into the game with biting banter herself—on air; Matt Malloy’s weatherman Ernie has a couple Albert Brooks-lite moments once the show goes into crisis mode; and McAdams is the perfect mix of confidence, fear, sweetness, and force.

She just has a natural charisma that begs for our wishes of success. We want her to get through the tough times, to get over her neuroses, and to live out her dreams. She is completely selfish in her personal life, concerning every waking second to her job, but at the same time completely selfless when it comes to family. And yes, that family consists of the kooks she shares an office with at five in the morning. She has the skill to do anything, but maybe the unlikely triumph of turning a laughing stock into something talked about on the streets and by the competition is worth more than a big paycheck. Whatever happens with Daybreak and its ego clash of Keaton and Ford is on her, for good or bad. She never wavers in her faith that the trouble spots will somehow work their way out. The film becomes a journey of that optimism trickling down to those around her. No one expects a left for dead loser to get up and make an impact and I didn’t think this film would stand out from the pack. Sometimes it’s good to be proven wrong.

[1] Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller in Paramount Pictures’ MORNING GLORY. © 2010 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Left to right: Diane Keaton plays Colleen Peck and Harrison Ford plays Mike Pomeroy in Paramount Pictures’ MORNING GLORY. Photo credit: Macall Polay – © 2010 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[3] A scene from Paramount Pictures’ MORNING GLORY. © 2010 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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