by Mel Valentin
Six years ago, Rachel McAdams’ role in "The Notebook," a commercially successful romantic drama co-starring Ryan Gosling, seemed to herald the arrival of a new, talented leading actress (her previous roles were primarily supporting turns). The lead role in Wes Craven’s "Red Eye" a year later proved she could carry a film, but McAdams’ career seemed to stall almost as quickly. Supporting turns in "The Family Stone"] (a minor role, actually) and a co-starring role in 2009’s "State of Play" raised her visibility, but not her box-office clout. "The Traveler’s Wife," pushed back for more than year, failed to cross over with audiences. A more successful, if still supporting turn, in "Sherlock Holmes" last year did, however, help. Her latest film, "Morning Glory," reaffirms McAdams’ talents as an actress, but fails to impress on any other level.Morning Glory centers on Becky Fuller (McAdams), a workaholic producer for a small-scale morning show, “Good Morning, New Jersey.” She’s so work-centered that she self-sabotages a first (and last) date to take a work-related phone call. Expecting a promotion to executive producer, Becky instead gets dumped (due to budget cutbacks, not work performance). Bummed, but indomitable, per the standard contract for comedy leads, Becky sends out resumes to the four major New York City morning shows, hoping to get the gig of her workaholic dreams (i.e., executive producer). She gets exactly one call back from the fourth (out of four) ranked television network, IBS. Impressed by her enthusiasm and energy, a senior network executive, Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum), practically hires her on the spot (actually he waits until she’s outside) for the last-in-ratings “DayBreak” morning show.
"Less, far less, than the sum of its considerable parts."
Becky shakes things up on her first day, firing DayBreak’s egocentric co-anchor, Paul McVee (Ty Burrell), but keeping the other longtime anchor (and onetime beauty queen), Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). Getting a co-anchor, however, proves to be more problematic. Barnes refuses to hire someone from outside the network, forcing Becky to explore hiring non-working anchors and TV journalists still on contract to the network. She ultimately decides on Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a “hard” news, Walter Cronkite/Dan Rather-style anchor currently relegated to sitting on his farm while his multi-year contract runs out. Pomeroy agrees to become the new DayBreak co-anchor, but only under duress (i.e., forfeiting the remainder of his contract). He refuses, however, to do the light, entertainment-focused pieces typical of morning shows. With the ratings still tanking, DayBreak and Becky’s career seem destined for a hard fall.
Of course, a hard fall for Becky is the last thing that’s going to happen. If it did, Morning Glory wouldn’t be a comedy (comedies always end on upbeat notes). There’s a minor romantic subplot involving another producer, Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), functionally primarily to give Morning Glory several romantic gaffes-as-humor-gags (including two or three McAdams’ in her underwear gags), the proverbial conflict between work and romance, and to balance things out demographics wise, male eye candy in the form of Patrick Wilson (he works out so we don’t have to). Thankfully, Wilson's presence as Becky’s age-appropriate romantic partner negates the possibility of a near-retirement-age Ford filling that role in the film.
Pomeroy functions in Morning Glory as Becky’s opponent and antagonist, perpetually unwilling to compromise his beliefs about the centrality of hard news over entertainment, a belief and an argument Becky willfully ignores or downplays in the effort to make DayBreak crawl stave off imminent cancellation (there’s your ticking clock, in case you’re wondering where Morning Glory’s would get its sense of urgency). Peck offers a second, secondary antagonist, but vain and hungry for relevance, she quickly acquiesces to Becky’s plans for DayBreak, setting herself up as a foil for the ponderous, pontificating Pomeroy at every turn. Like almost everything else and everyone else in Morning Glory, though, Peck functions either as an impediment or an aid to Becky as she bulldozes her way to success (or, far less likely, failure).Casting proves to be "Morning Glory’s" saving grace. McAdams is never less than watchable even when she’s spouting underwritten banalities or clichés, courtesy of screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna ("27 Dresses," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Laws of Attraction," "Three to Tango"). Keaton reminds us why she was, once, long ago, the go-to actress for comic roles (i.e., comic timing). Ford fairs worst, due partly the dialogue McKenna gives him and partly to the role McKenna wrote for him: a one-dimensional, distinctly unlikeable curmudgeon. His transformation (and you know it’s coming, specifically in the third act) feels false, forced, and contrived (because, alas, it is). That’s not to say he doesn’t get in one or two one liners, not to mention his trademark finger-pointing, just that "Morning Glory" is less, far less, than the sum of its considerable parts.
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originally posted: 11/09/10 12:00:00