Friday, July 27, 2012

Morning Glory Is The Best, Most Insufferably Predictable, Workplace Dramedy In Years!

The Good: Interesting characters, Decent development and structure, Wonderful acting, Decent DVD bonus features.
The Bad: Utterly predictable on all fronts.
The Basics: Despite being painfully predictable, Morning Glory is a worthwhile and fun film focusing on one plucky producer’s attempt to save a morning television news program, despite her lead anchor’s resistance!

The longer one watches and reviews movies (or television, I suppose), the harder it is to surprise them. For sure, not everything can be innovative, fresh and new, which might be why so many major studios continue to revamp old franchises rather than being accused of making something that would be panned as “derivative.” With romantic comedies and lighter workplace dramas, there have been so many cinematic stories told that it truly is difficult to amaze viewers now. Thus, the success of those types of movies often comes down to the quality of the cast and acting and the quirks that come in the writing from the writer’s sense of style and eloquence.

Morning Glory succeeds for only that reason. Were it not for an impressive cast acting incredibly well and moments where the writing felt fresh (Mike Pomeroy being defined as the third worst person on the planet, for example), Morning Glory would simply be a formulaic nightmare that lacked any charm, originality or reason to watch. As it is, though, Morning Glory has enough going for it, so much so that it is easy to see why Harrison Ford wanted to be a part of it. However, the entirely formulaic nature of the film helps make it clear why so few critics were wowed by the movie.

Becky Fuller works for a small New Jersey television station where she works on the morning show. When she thinks she is being promoted, she is in fact fired and that throws her off track entirely. Despite her mother’s discouragements, Becky continues to pursue a position as a producer and after weeks of trying, she finally lands an interview at IBS. Hired to take over the struggling show “Daybreak,” Becky is hampered by outdated technology and a lecherous, egotistical anchor. After firing her anchor, she determines that the newscaster for whom she has always had respect is still under contract with the network and using a clause in his contract that leverages the balance of his contract against him, Becky manages to get Mike Pomeroy to come do “Daybreak.”

Unfortunately for Becky and Mike’s co-anchor, Colleen, Mike refuses to adapt to the format of morning television. Unwilling to do any piece that he feels is below him, Mike pushes to report real news. But when one of Becky’s stunts involving the weatherman, Ernie, actually shows a tiny ratings bump, Becky sees that the key to getting the audience is sensationalism. As she uses Ernie and Colleen to bring entertaining programming to the morning show, Mike continues to resist, focusing instead on his own quest for a breaking news story. As Becky works to save the show, she tries to balance “Daybreak” with her new relationship with Adam, a man who knows Mike Pomeroy’s eccentricities all too well.

Morning Glory is one of those movies that it is hard for me to start an objective discussion about because I start going into all the things that feel familiar and trite about it – mostly pertaining to the plot and character structure of the film. So, sufficed to say, the film is not only predictable, but it has a very “assembled” feel to it. In other words, the film has very little in the way of frills; the elements that are put into play very early in Morning Glory all come back later on to be paid off. So, for example, Becky’s mother makes a crack in her first scene about how Becky has just been working on the hope that someday, an important executive will call her up and offer her a producing position on the biggest morning show on the air. So, when Becky is called by NBC late in the film, that bit of foreshadowing is played out.

But the problem with being so very critical about how the film is assembled is that some of it, much of it, actually works. Adam’s knowledge of Mike Pomeroy’s drinking habits is not only useful to Becky, it makes sense that he would have become familiar with them in his tenure working with Mike. The scene where Mike Pomeroy cooks a frittata before work not only serves to humanize him to Becky, but it is pretty much meaningless without the callback to it late in the film. As a result, much of Morning Glory feels like a set-up in the first half and the second half is all about paying off the threads laid down. It’s a formula, but it is hard to complain when part of that formula results in people putting down their smartphones and spending more real time together.

Part of the success of Morning Glory (because it does work quite a bit more than it ever fails) comes from the film’s cast and the fact that director Roger Mitchell uses them all in an excellent fashion. Matt Malloy makes Ernie credible in all the ways his character is tormented and Michell uses Ty Burrell for a brief, hilarious, role before getting him off camera before Burrell can change the entire tenor of the film. John Pankow has great physical performances in Morning Glory and one of my new favorites over the past three years, Patrick Wilson, manages to be entirely credible as Adam. He is, in fact, far more believable as an awkward, lovestruck yet frumpy guy than Rachel McAdams is as a woman so busy she doesn’t possibly notice that she is drop-dead gorgeous. Jeff Goldblum is efficient and smart in his scenes as Jerry.

Diana Keaton pretty much reinvented herself in Morning Glory. As Colleen Peck, she plays a journalist who understands how the game is played and works for a fourth place show. Instead of complaining about it, Colleen shows up, does her job and waits for a producer to come along who believes in the concept of “Daybreak” and who might actually want to be there. When Becky Fuller arrives, Colleen quickly realizes that she is the real deal. This leads Keaton to some of her most memorable moments on film as she raps with 50 Cent, plays with animals and is put in a giant sumo costume to go up against a real sumo wrestler. And Keaton plays Colleen as credibly smart and emotionally connected enough to hold her own against Harrison Ford’s Mike Pomeroy.

Well before he played a cranky old man in Cowboys And Aliens (reviewed here!), Harrison Ford played Mike Pomeroy and the role is an exceptionally good one to illustrate Ford’s talents. Harrison Ford does not play Pomeroy as dashing, debonair, or charismatic, which are traits that Ford is usually associated with. Instead, he slouches, scowls and grunts his way through the role and he is so convincing in his grumpy persona that viewers are almost unlikely to buy that he is smart enough, when viewing the promos for Pomeroy joining “Daybreak,” to quip, “What’s in the briefcase? Where am I running to?!” Ford pulls it off, though, and he makes a good arc of Pomeroy’s many barriers peeling away.

Rachel McAdams, however, sells Morning Glory. It is largely her job to convince the viewers that Becky is smart and driven enough to make “Daybreak” work and over the course of the film, she succeeds. She has great on-screen chemistry with both Patrick Wilson and Harrison Ford. Rachel McAdams makes Fuller seem determined and righteous enough to be completely believable.

On DVD and Blu-Ray, Morning Glory has quite a bit to offer viewers. In addition to deleted scenes, there is a rich commentary track with director Roger Michell and the film’s author. The featurettes are entertaining and there are enough bonus features to make viewers feel they are getting a value with the disc.

Ultimately, Morning Glory may not be the most original film, but it presents the known quantities well and is well worth watching for the entertainment of it; Morning Glory is enduringly entertaining and holds up over multiple viewings.

For other works with Rachel McAdams, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Vow
Sherlock Holmes
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Married Life
The Family Stone
Mean Girls


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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