' ' Cinema Romantico: Morning Glory

Monday, November 15, 2010

Morning Glory

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) dreams of producing a morning TV talk show. She has sent out who-knows-how many resumes, endlessly waiting for a call back. She is sitting by a little lake, a few older men nearby casting fishing lines into the water, when she gets a call from a producer, Jerry Barnes, (Jeff Goldblum) at the long running program "Daybreak" whose ratings have tanked. He wants her to come in for an interview. She is so excited. She hops aboard her bike and steers it to the right, directly toward those fishermen casting their lines, and there is nowhere for Becky to go and, oh God, you can see it coming from a mile away. She's going right into that lake, right at the moment of her triumph she's gonna get all wet. It's inevitable. Except....at the last instant she gets the bike turned and glides by the fishermen and, hey, everything is okay! There, ladies and gentlemen, is "Morning Glory", and most Rachel McAdams movies, in capsule. No matter what it takes, Rachel will not let it careen into the lake. The set ups are obvious. The payoffs are not.

And the set ups of Roger Michell's "Morning Glory" (screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna) are decidedly obvious, and, well, all right, the payoffs are pretty obvious, too. But the outlines in the coloring book are always obvious. It just comes down to how well you can color and, man, can Rachel McAdams color.

Her earnest spirit gets her the job but as earnest as she is she is also no nonsense and on her first day she cans the creepy male co-anchor no one liked. Quickly her plan becomes to pair famed news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), currently without an official job title but still on the network payroll, with "Daybreak's" longtime host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), oh so chirpy....on camera, at least. Of course, this is not as easy as it reads. Mike Pomeroy is a legend, as he ceaselessly reminds Becky, and everyone else, who covers real news, real news only and refuses to so much as recite the word "fluffy" on camera and so Becky finds herself having to coddle Mike and function as a babysitting go-between for he and Colleen. All these problems send the ratings of "Daybreak" even further into the tank and Jerry explains they have but six more weeks before the plug gets pulled and so Becky will have to think fast to keep things afloat.

All this sounds and feels like a rom-com except it's really all com and no rom and, thus, a subplot involving another network producer, Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), who may as well ride in and out of every scene on a white stallion, is inserted to fulfill the rom quotient.

The latter years Harrison Ford has been all gruff and curmudgeonly and yet somehow, improbably, in this role he becomes even more gruff and curmudgeonly. His voice suggests a man not interested in talking to anyone about anything. A passerby on the street mistakes him for Dan Rather which seems perfect because one can only assume when Dan Rather was booted from the nightly news anchor chair for Katie Couric that he went ballistic and lectured people on how he did real news, real news only and would never say the world "fluffy." It looks like Ford is doing nothing but this is only because the character himself spends most of his time specifically trying to do nothing. The meat and potatoes of this tale is the relationship between Becky and Mike and it could have really had an old-timey screwball feel had it pushed it but the script chooses not to invest in it as heavily as it could, focusing instead on other flights of fancy.

Keaton has less of a key role but banters well and Wilson is really only there to smile and be charming and Goldblum manages to get some mileage from his hair (seriously, his hair looks like a frazzled network exec's hair would look) and Matt Malloy has some decent moments as the weatherman/comic since all TV weathermen anymore secretly yearn to be comics but "Morning Glory" belongs to Rachel McAdams.

Essentially she is in every frame and every frame she is in she enlightens and makes better. She is sweet but not cloying. She is motivated but not overbearing. When she walks and talks, as she does often, you can see her focused on the task at hand but simultaneously brainstorming on other levels, and while the requisite romantic scenes with Wilson are completely forced at surface level she succeeds in making them ring true in ways I can't quite express. It's sort of a If You Haven't Seen It No Explanation Would Be Sufficient & If You Have Seen It No Explanation Is Necessary situation. Her arc of Live To Work to Work To Live would have come across a lot better without the device of Wilson's boyfriend functioning to clarify it for her because McAdams otherwise plays it - without overdoing it, mind you - to show she has clarified it for herself but then triumphing in spite of the material, as she has done so many times, merely re-underscores her talent.

There are many oft-employed cinematic phrases I detest. These include, though are by no means limited to, "It was exactly what I expected" and "What the people want." There is another phrase I detest and it is when someone says they have chose against checking out a new feature because, as they say, "I've seen that movie." Yes, yes, yes you've seen "Morning Glory." I know. But you haven't seen it with Rachel McAdams.


Castor said...

Good review Nick. Roger Mitchell was saying recently how difficult it was for him to convince Rachel to take the role because she didn't think of herself as funny. Good to see her rise to the challenge once again.

Nick Prigge said...

Really? Interesting. She's so funny. That part where she talks about when she realizes the guy doesn't actually want to hear about her CD collection and Kerouac is one of the funnier things I've seen in a movie this year.