Rise and Shine
And then what?
by Jason Blair
MORNING GLORY: Directed by Roger Michell. Written by Aline Brosh Mckenna. Cinematography, Alwin Kuchler. Music, David Arnold. Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Dianne Keaton and Patrick Wilson. Paramount Pictures, 2010. PG-13. 102 minutes.
Among the many pleasures afforded by Wedding Crashers is watching actress Rachel McAdams take herself so seriously. Bracketed by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, whose ad libs are like a private party caught on film, McAdams plays the earnest but self-aware love interest with a precision her character scarcely requires. It was an early glimpse at a future star, an heir to Sally Field with the looks of Julia Roberts, but stardom has been slow in coming for McAdams, even if the steady work hasn’t. Now McAdams gets to shine again in Morning Glory, the story of a tailspinning morning program at a network called IBS — which, I might point out, shares the same abbreviation as serious and prolonged bowel trouble. Except at the network, the discomfort is incurable.
Into this pit of despair walks Becky Fuller (McAdams), the 14th executive producer in the last decade at the Daybreak program. A self-described “oversharer” suffused with what a colleague calls “repellent moxie,” Becky is just the workaholic for the job — if only the job will last. Shortly after she’s hired by Jerry (a crackling Jeff Goldblum), he reveals that if the ratings don’t go up right away, Daybreak is going down. A believer in hard news who also understands entertainment, Becky sets out to win over co-host Colleen (Diane Keaton), an aging beauty queen with chronically low expectations and a mild addiction to a prescription pills. Going for broke, Becky pulls a reverse-Broadcast News and hires legendary news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a supernaturally grouchy Dan Rather type who once, according to Pomeroy himself, “pulled Colin Powell from a burning jeep.”
The reluctant Becky-Mike partnership is the essence of Morning Glory. Adversarial, fraternal, sexual — their chemistry is palpable. But the film, which is about how work is a poor substitute for love, avoids their sexual tension by inserting Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), a convenient but bland hunk who isn’t nearly quick enough for Becky. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada), after a terrific opening and promising middle act, resorts to playing games with Becky and Mike, giving us truce after truce but avoiding real closure. The entire cast of Morning Glory gives their finest performances in years, none more so than McAdams and Ford, she pert and exquisitely annoying (much more exquisite than annoying) and he a bitter and lonely Captain Cranky. But the central themes of Morning Glory — news versus entertainment, love versus career — are swept aside, making what could have been a great film is merely a very good one.
Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Persuasion) still has a knack for light comedy. There are great comedic moments sprinkled throughout the film, particularly when the weatherman is asked to do his own stunts, but the film sputters in its indecisive last act. Eventually, McAdams and Ford pick up the pieces, with Mike literally scrambling some eggs to get Becky back. It’s an elegant and clever conclusion, one all the more frustrating for the indecision that preceded it.