Thursday, November 18, 2010

Morning Glory

Spoiler alert-o-meter: Medium spoiler alerts ahead. Safe for: All ages.

Morning Glory is old-fashioned in an ‘80s kind of way. Reminiscent of ‘movies like Working Girl, Broadcast News, and even Soapdish in its behind-the-scenes depiction of live TV. It never takes itself very seriously, which is good because, if there’s a message here it’s that news should entertain as well as inform. Well, at least morning news.

Rachel McAdams plays Becky, a perky, hyper, workaholic producer at a popular morning news show in New Jersey. She’s good at her job, and her co-workers who adore her think she’s being groomed for a promotion. Instead, she’s fired. But (since this is not real life) it's not long before she picks up another job in Manhattan at a low-ranked morning news show. It’s a sad little program with grand dame Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) who’s been co-anchor at the station for years. She looks like Diane Sawyer crossed with Martha Stewart.

It’s no secret that Becky is good at producing, and early on she gets to show everyone at the station how she can take control. She helps win over her new blasé co-workers by firing Colleen’s co-anchor, a smarmy douchebag played by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell. That leaves a vacancy next to Colleen. Through sleight-of plot manipulation, Becky strong-arms Harrison Ford’s Mike Pomeroy (one of those iconic newsmen who used to actually report the news) to take the job because he's languishing at the station without much to do until his contract runs out.

So, there’s the set up. It’s fill-in-the-blanks, with scenes of chilly Mike Pomeroy doing his best to anchor the news part of this morning show, while Colleen handles the fluffy stuff. Think Tom Brokaw slumming it on Good Morning America. Pomeroy's a pain to work with, so the movie gets a lot of mileage out of showing Becky trying to deal with him, and get him to loosen up and play along.

Ford plays Pomeroy as a self-centered asshole so our sympathies and allegiances are clearly aligned behind the Becky character. Although, deep down I wanted Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Rick Deckard, and Han Solo to do what ever the hell he wanted and have a happy ending.

Jeff Goldblum (who looks better here than I’ve ever seen him, and if he’s aging, it’s a backwards process) plays a bad-ish suit who, because of the show’s low ratings, gives Becky six weeks to hit the right viewership threshold or he’s canceling the show. Since Becky has no life (although Patrick Wilson gives it a shot playing apparently the hottest single guy working in broadcast TV), she devotes all her time to get the ratings back up. Predictably, this includes stunts for Colleen and a hapless but game weatherman. The execution of these scenes works well, and the infusion of new extreme-morning show tactics is a hoot to watch.

I’ll stop there and won’t ruin the ending (which, please, you already know). So, what makes this movie worth seeing? The early scenes are a bit dreary, with Rachel acting manic and obnoxious, making Becky a character I don't want to spend two hours with, but after about fifteen minutes the tone evens out, Becky grows on me, and we’ve got a heroine to root for, bad guys (or not-so-nice folks) to sort-of dislike, and an almost-love interest in Patrick Wilson who doesn't have much to do, but is one of the more pleasant characters in the film.

The film is boosted from predictable to pretty good due to the main actors. Harrison Ford plays off his serious movie actor schtick, so when his heart finally melts just enough to suit the story, it works. Diane Keaton is nice in this very slight role. It’s the type of character whose success and believability depend on the actor, and it's good to see her playing a strong woman not afraid to take risks and look silly on camera. Rachel McAdams plays Becky as an ambitious young suit, infusing the character with a blind belief in what she's doing that allows us to easily empathize with her. If she has a flaw it's that she works too hard.

Ultimately, Morning Glory is not the story of how Becky learns about bigtime TV, she already knows that. It's about how she rises to the occasion, gets rid of those hick bangs, and saves the show. In today's movies about working girls, the love interest takes a back seat to job success. Does she end up with Patrick Wilson? It's implied. But her life is her work, and according to this movie, she's okay with that.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Tuesday night bargain show. Price $6.00. Viewed with Liz.

Coming Attractions:

The Next 3 Days. Paul Haggis directs what looks like a pretty preposterous movie, about a woman convicted of murder and her husband who tries to break her out of prison. Actually, sounds good on paper, but it looks like a slog with Russell Crowe as the husband doing some stupid stuff to spring the wife. Is she innocent? Why is it called the Next 3 Days? Is that how long it takes a movie to tank?

The Tourist. Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie. “Revolves around Frank, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Elise is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path.” Is she a spy? Is he? Nothing is as it seems…

The Fighter. Shot in Lowell, so of course I’ll be seeing this one. About Mickey Ward, the boxer from our mean streets. Story seems very conventional, following the sports underdog template: athlete has potential, has personal problems, loses his first shot, overcomes adversity, gets a second shot. On the plus side it's directed by David O. Russell.

Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway. It’s a rom-com. Liz said, “It’s weird to see Jake Gyllenhaal smile.” He plays a slick salesman who falls for a beautiful free spirit. So, maybe we’re not supposed to trust his smile.

No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher play friends who end up sleeping together. And, I'm guessing from the plot twists exposed in the trailer, that he falls for her and she just wants the sex because she has a busy life as a doctor and doesn't have time for more? Could be cute, since the stars are both cute. Not sure Portman's made a rom-com like this. Due out next year.


Cynthia Sherrick said...

No snacks?

This movie looks fun and entertaining, I may even go see it. I actually haven't been to a movie theater in over two years -- I'd say that's a record for me...

Dell Smith said...

Yes--I think this should be your first movie theater experience movie in two years. Go. Now. Go.