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Morning Glory
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by Erik Childress

"Lowering Our Standards Bit-By-Little-Bit"
2 stars

To take a good news/bad news approach to Morning Glory, the former consists of knowing that this is precisely the kind of film we can thank our lucky stars that Katherine Heigl is not a part of. True she already made a version of this movie with noted hack Robert Luketic called The Ugly Truth that more than lived up to the first part of its title, but this plot is not so far removed and it is easy to imagine Heigl and her forced attempts at awkward charm dragging it down even further. On to the bad news though. While this may be a more ready-for-primetime version of The Ugly Truth with a more accomplished director in Roger Michell and charming lead in Rachel McAdams, it is still one of the most confused screenplays of the year that makes it the morning show equivalent of Broadcast News; only with compromised standards encouraged.

Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a hard-working producer for a tiny New Jersey morning show which means, like all attractive, ambitious single ladies in the movies, she cannot go on a date without her cell phone sabotaging it. Expecting a promotion but instead getting the boot as part of a restructuring, Becky sends out her resume and gets a bite on a fourth place New York morning show called Daybreak. Seemingly overwhelmed at first, Becky makes her presence felt at the first staff meeting when she fires co-anchor and foot fetishist, Paul McVee (Modern Family's great Ty Burrell), leaving an opening aside former beauty queen and still-current diva, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).

In desperation, Becky reaches out to embittered evening news anchorman, Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), to make the switch. Practically blackmailed to take the spot, he agrees but refuses to cooperate in doing fluffy stories as opposed to doing the hard news. Pomeroy won't even say the word "fluffy." With ratings on the decline and cancellation is threatened though, Becky goes to extreme lengths to pack the show full of the kind of outrageous stunts that then go viral on YouTube. Pomeroy may be dubbed the "third worst person in the world" by his former co-worker and current suitor of Becky's, Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), but he has his pride and has no problem visualizing his frustration on the air even as it continues to rankle both his co-host and producer.

There is actually a lot going on in Morning Glory, an amount ironically in tune with the modern 24-hour news cycle that is equally hard for those covering it to keep up with and find enough filler to keep their audience interested. The relationship between Becky and Adam is precisely that kind of filler that never really takes off and is only engaging enough when McAdams is trotted out in her underwear on three separate occasions. A large problem with it and much of Morning Glory is McAdams' performance. She has an undeniable screen presence, but plays Becky as so socially awkward with an emphasis on overshooting her likability factor that it all feels kind of false. (At least her character's name wasn't the puntastic Glory. Even if it was she certainly would not have earned it.) Her character is not in the mold of a Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday and while her work ethic is admirable, her personality does not allow the kind of interaction with others that make us believe she could ever survive in this workplace. Comparison to Holly Hunter's Jane Craig is not unwarranted, but that was a woman who, by allowing to let her guard down, found herself lowering her standards in pursuit of personal happiness. Becky is never established with any such standards so all we see is a desperate woman jumping at impulsive opportunities. Which is how the film feels as well.

Aline Brosh McKenna, best known for adapting The Devil Wears Prada, brings some of that same tired semi-naive-girl-in-over-her-head-with-divas in Becky's battle with her elders. But she brings even more of the substandard banter from her lesser known and certainly lesser praised works like 27 Dresses and the Pierce Brosnan/Julianne Moore spousal lawyers piece, Laws of Attraction. While it is a bit refreshing to see the process of a new job and revamped show taking effect, in her non-rushed attempt to let it play out McKenna never finds the focus of the piece until well into its second hour. It is 70 minutes in before Becky finally has the kind of meltdown that shows she is not just an discomfited jovial automaton and opens up the story to the kind of satire on entertainment-as-news antics that provides a solid five-minute stretch of big on-target laughs.

It appears as this is the kind of behavioral stretch that Becky will find herself regretting in the final reel. Curiously though it all appears part of the grand scheme to completely miss the mark in the debate of news vs. puff pieces. Harrison Ford turns on the grump big time here and there's potential irony in one of the biggest box office draws of all time forced to humble himself self-depricatingly in a much smaller picture. Instead of crafting the kind of full-bodied comeback character that stars such as Burt Reynolds and Eddie Murphy have taken over the years, Ford seems to just be channeling Clint Eastwood's gravelly growl from Heartbreak Ridge and Gran Torino and we never get an appreciation for how far he's fallen from grace or the old school standards he represents. The character's big news moment in the final act - visiting the only country home without a peephole that allows a disgraced governor to freely walk out onto his porch in front of a nationally-known reporter with a cameraman - is such a sham that it makes William Hurt's fake cry in Broadcast News genuinely noble. But not nearly as big a disgrace as the film's supposed happy ending where one character gives up their dream job after the statesman for journalistic ethics completely compromises his to cook a fratatta on-air.

Morning Glory opens with a stylistic choice to transpose the first scene over J.J. Abrams' production company logo, slowly bringing Becky's bad first date from the size of a widescreen television to fill the cinematic widescreen. It's a nice touch from Michell that ultimately backfires on him as the film neither earns a transition from the small screen to the big nor communicates a message in style-over-substance that is meant as irony. The argument that hard news is about as interesting as teachers who do not entertain while they teach can be made by people who understand that not every piece of information is meant for a trivia game. Jane Craig understood this. Aaron Altman did too but just couldn't sell it. Morning Glory goes well beyond what Tom Grunik represented by comforting a mouth-breathing nation that any of the world's problems can be whisked aside in favor of the right recipe even if those providing it don't really know the ingredients.

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originally posted: 11/10/10 03:34:10
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User Comments

7/24/11 the dork knight Formulaic, NYC-based chick flick. Ford carries it. 3 stars
7/07/11 DK Actually pretty good, cast deserve most of the credit. 3 stars
5/12/11 gc Ford/Keaton were hilarious together 4 stars
3/10/11 helen bradley Diane Keaton great; Harrison Ford boring & bad acting, overall a good movie 4 stars
11/14/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky great comic flair 4 stars
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  10-Nov-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2011


  DVD: 08-Mar-2011

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