November 11, 2010


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Morning Glory (PG-13)
A scrappy TV producer tries to resuscitate a morning news show in Morning Glory, an uneven rom-com where a lot of the romance is actually between a girl and her job.

Becky (Rachel McAdams) loves loves loves her job as the show runner of Good Morning, New Jersey. It is all she thinks about and she works very hard at it. But, cutbacks, etc., and instead of getting the big promotion she expected, she gets fired. A job search lands her what on the surface appears to be a better gig — executive producer of Daybreak, the morning show on the IBS network. Like the digestive syndrome that shares the network’s initials, Daybreak is a collection of woes. The male anchor (Ty Burrell) is a creepy moron; the female anchor, Colleen (Diane Keaton), is a diva. The show is in last place in the ratings — even behind that thing on CBS, says the network boss (Jeff Goldblum) — and so it has no money, no ability to get good guests and a track record of leaving executive producers bloodied, broken and quickly gone.

But Becky is not deterred. She fires the male anchor and, using her crafty knowledge about network contracts, finagles it so bitter, angry former nighttime anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) must take his place. Now, it might seem that picking someone with no interest in being on your show (outside of running out the clock on a multi-million-dollar contract) would not be the best move. But Mike is of the Dan Rather/Walter Cronkite/Peter Jennings school of glory-days newsmen, and she hopes he’ll bring heft (and viewers) to the show.

Mike may be those things, but he’s also a pompous ass with an antiquated idea of what is “the news” and how it should be delivered. I can’t decide whether the movie wants him to be a talented guy with a rough exterior or a constipated old schmuck with no idea how modern media works. So he lurches between jerky and virtuous as Becky tries to find ways to use his talents and his grimness to make her show work.

Along the way, she also wins a fan in Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), a producer for another one of the network’s news shows and a full-on hottie. Becky likes him — but maybe she doesn’t like him enough (i.e. more than her job) to turn flirtation into a full-on relationship.

There is something initially cute but ultimately annoying about how Becky Liz-Lemons around thinking Adam isn’t good enough for her. There’s no reason for it — just like there’s no reason for her mom to tell her that, at age 28, her dream of working on the Today show is embarrassing. At 28? She is, when this pronouncement is made, somebody who was just a producer on morning TV in New York City-adjacent New Jersey — that would seem to be a step on the ladder that leads to, if not the Today show specifically, some decent network future. We are given no reason other than that this woman has had some lousy parenting to think that she isn’t exactly what she appears to be — somebody working very hard at a career she loves. Sure, there’s a work-life balance thing to think about, but I don’t know that you have to think about it super hard when you’re 28. If you’re 28 and on your way, keep on running. For a movie that tells us over and over again how much Becky loves her work — which is a bad thing? should our dreams be limited to things that can be achieved from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.? — its attitude toward this highly competent, highly driven person is patronizing and strange.

This is perhaps an overly critical examination of a movie that, despite its promising setup, never really tries to do anything exciting or go anywhere new. And it really is a promising setup — there were moments of actual humor and I liked how the movie, at least for a little while, seemed to applaud the idea of a person who is good at, and enjoys, her work.

McAdams tries to be something that isn’t just that one Katherine Heigl character all the girls in romantic comedies are these days (and she does succeed at being less shrill and more watchable) but the movie still has her do stupid things, like go to a serious corporate interview in what looks like a ballet costume or run off to tend to the show in her panties because she’s so dedicated she forgot her skirt. (And the combined unlikeabilities of a shrieky Keaton and a growling Ford aren’t doing the movie any favors either.) In the end we have the same crummy set pieces we always do — a girl (played by a beautiful actress) admired for her “quirkiness” and spunkiness, a guy she thinks is too good for her, a wacky supporting cast, a lot of goofy running around and a big emotional finish. And that’s fine, another middling chick flick — it’s just a bummer because it briefly appeared like it could be something more. C+

Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references. Directed by Roger Michell and written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Morning Glory is an hour and 30 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Paramount Pictures.