Morning Glory Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

Wednesday night releases are the exclusive purview of big budget action films. Star Wars, Dark Knight, Avatar – they all tend to be movies that stand a good chance of breaking box office records. Releasing on Wednesday means they get that extra two days of ticket sales to add to the weekend total. J.J. Abrams has traditionally been involved in a lot of high-concept action projects (Cloverfield, Star Trek, Alias, etc.) so it wouldn’t have been so strange to see his latest project on the slate for a Wednesday night release had the synopsis not gone something like this:

A young TV producer takes on the job of revitalizing an ailing morning news programme but runs into trouble managing her bickering co-hosts.

It’s high concept, sure, but high concept comedy, not high concept action, so it’s unlikely to make even the top gross of the weekend, considering that it’s pitted against two high concept, big budget action movies: Unstoppable, and Skyline. So what’s the deal with the Wednesday release? Well, if I had to guess, I’d say JJ Abrams wanted Morning Glory to have at least a few days in the sun before it was unceremoniously steamrolled by the appropriately named Unstoppable. I saw it, and you know what? Morning Glory deserves a hell of a lot more than just two days in the sun.

Morning Glory stars Rachel McAdams (who, I might mention, is Canadian) as the aforementioned TV producer, Becky Fuller. She’s young, she’s dynamic, and she’s totally married to her job. Her horrible mother (Patti D’Arbanville) is decidedly unsupportive (apparently aspirations are only for teenagers and people who want to embarrass their mothers) but Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum), an executive with IBS is willing to take advantage (I mean take a chance on) Becky by giving her the helm of Daybreak, a morning show that’s about to be cancelled if the ratings don’t improve.

There are a lot of jokes in this movie about Harrison Ford’s character being the
3rd worst person in the world, but if that’s true, Jerry must be #1 and #2.

From the trailer you probably got the impression that the movie is mostly about Becky falling in love with Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), the cute guy who works upstairs in the newsmagazine department, and how her total workaholic nature endangers their relationship. After all, what’s a female movie character without a cute man in her bed?… I mean by her side.

Adam, the cute producer from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

to be fair, he is really cute

However, though Becky does indeed date and fall out with Adam, her primary relationship in the film is a working one with Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford). Becky has idolized Mike since she was a little girl, so when she takes over the morning show she immediately ditches the pervy loser who’s currently co-hosting and manipulates Mike, an aging Pulitzer prize-winning news anchor, into taking the spot. He’s a workaholic, like Becky, or he was, before his life fell apart, and if Becky could only get him to warm up to her they could beat even their hated rival: NBC’s Today Show.

Mike giving Becky advice from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

It’s a great relationship, and (thankfully) not a romantic one (for once)

Mike is a crotchety old man who believes he’s too good for the types of cutesy human interest stories his co-host Colleen Peck (Dianne Keaton) does. So while she puts on tutus to ballet dance with six year olds, sumo wrestles enormous men in fat suits, and kisses amphibious creatures, Mike lashes everyone with his wickedly sharp tongue and demands to do stories about political corruption and the Middle East.

Colleen ballet dancing with children from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

you can really tell Dianne Keaton had a lot of fun being in this movie

Mike is easily the best part of the film. Even though Harrison Ford has taken on vaguely comedic roles before (like Indiana Jones) I had no idea he could be this hilarious. He’s so quick with the smart ass remarks that Becky can’t even manage a better comeback than “oh yeah?” most of the time, and he and Dianne Keaton have an endearingly funny mutual hatred that manifests as brutal yet hilarious on and off screen banter.

Colleen and Mike bantering from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

“I am not saying the word ‘fluffy’

I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie since It’s Complicated (which, coincidentally, also prominently features older Hollywood actors). Ford’s timing is dead on, but a lot of the credit goes to screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna for coming up with the lines. You remember her – she wrote 27 Dresses and adapted The Devil Wears Prada for the screen. She’s quickly becoming queen of chick-flick writers, and she deserves to be. My only complaint about her writing – about the movie in general, actually – is that Becky is, at times, painfully awkward. So much so that it caused me actual physical pain.

Becky meets Mike in an elevator from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

I seriously tried to burrow into the seat fabric and disappear during this awkward elevator meeting
in which she managed to embarrass herself in front of both Mike and Adam simultaneously

It made me wonder how she ever got any jobs in the first place. Of course, she does have redeeming qualities. She’s suzie-on-the-ball when it comes to producing television and she does these rousing speeches and brutal dressing-downs when needed that (mostly) succeed in keeping depressed and/or warring factions from imploding the show.

Becky scolding Mike and Colleen from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

You will stop acting like spoiled children, and you will do it now.

Becky’s not alone in running the show, which is another facet of the story that really shines. Too many films have a disappointing lack of good secondary characters and subplots these days, but you can’t count Morning Glory among them. Becky’s got a whole supporting staff of writers and producers that she develops a great rapport with. Her “go team” working relationship with Ernie (Matt Malloy), her right hand, is especially sweet.

Becky and Ernie from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

Who just saved the show? That’s right, we did!

So it is a chick flick, but for once it’s not a chick flick that’s solely about some woman who lands a boyfriend, fights with him for a while, and lives happily ever after. It’s more about a young woman’s working relationships rather than her personal ones. Finding and balancing success, earning the trust and admiration of co-workers, and finally settling into a workplace where everyone feels like one big family.

staff of Daybreak from the Paramount Pictures film Morning Glory

Yay! We love going to work!

It’s different from the usual cookie-cutter fare, and I highly recommend it – even to guys. After all, lots of men are overworked, too. The fact that they’re male needn’t preclude them from relating to Becky. So forget about all those action movies and go see this one instead.

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