Movie Review: Morning Glory
The Charlotte Observer
By California state law, Hollywood studios are required every two months to knock out a quick, quip-filled comedy about an intense young person - preferably a woman - who learns that Type-A personalities run aground when lives lack love. Once this lesson is taught, they can sail happily toward career success, respect from once-crabby peers and an affair/marriage with a knockout of the opposite gender.
"Morning Glory" sticks as closely to this formula as salt to a potato chip, but the acting is so exact and the timing so crisp that it delivers precisely the satisfaction you'd anticipate. There's not one surprise in the 110 minutes, but neither are there any disappointments.
Rachel McAdams plays 28-year-old Becky, the sort of woman attached to her Blackberry by an umbilical cord. She has been hired to produce a TV morning show in New York that trails "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" the way a three-legged colt would trail Secretariat.
She's hired at a network whose every employee comes straight from Central Casting: the crusty station manager (Jeff Goldblum), the burned-out and whiny co-anchor (Diane Keaton), the on-air bimbette who mangles English (J. Elaine Marcos), the wacky weatherman who makes bad puns (Matt Molloy). Inexplicably, there's no wise gay man to serve as Becky's mentor, so we have to make do with a whimsical older Jew (John Pankow).
Into Becky's life come two men: Adam (Patrick Wilson), the rich, handsome Yale graduate who rowed on an Olympic crew, and gruff Mike (Harrison Ford), a once-great reporter whose contempt for morning news hinders his effectiveness as the upcoming co-anchor.
Does anyone need to be told that Mike's an alcoholic who has thrown away his self-respect, or that he will go after a story that can make or break not only his future but the show's? Of course not.
Like the frittatas Mike makes at crucial moments, we require only that such movies be served hot, fresh and with the lightest bit of savory seasoning. This is, because writer Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada") and director Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") know how to make fluff fluffy.
There's a brief debate about whether gossipy, sexed-up "news" has handicapped serious reportage beyond repair on morning TV, but the moviemakers know better than to let that debate drag on. (That battle is already lost or won, depending on your view.) The script has it both ways: Mike's big story involves high-level, white-collar corruption, but of the hookers-and-rackets type.
Ford never quite seems like a curmudgeon; he comes off as an amiable actor pretending to be an embittered has-been, but that's close enough. Keaton and Goldblum put a high gloss on the same performance they have given for decades, and Wilson smiles his way through another generic nice-guy role.
McAdams is a ball of fire as the flailing, unbalanced but always lovable Becky. It's a role many actresses could play - in fact, a role many actresses would play the same way - but she's endearing without ever becoming so puppy-cute that we gag. Given the strict limits of the formula, that's a victory.