“Who’s scruffy lookin’?”
Let’s stipulate up front that Rachel McAdams is irreducibly adorable. If you can’t/won’t agree to that then you’ll probably have a hard time wading through Morning Glory. If you can, it’s pretty smooth sailing because she single-handedly wills it to uncertain life. She reminds me a bit of a young Sally Field except she doesn’t seem to be trying so hard for your approval. Morning Glory doesn’t hold up to any kind of deep thinking, but thanks to its lead it’s a “chick flick” that manages to give better than most of its kind and probably won’t drive boyfriends/husbands to slit their wrists. How’s that for a movie poster endorsement?
McAdams plays a young workaholic TV producer who lands at the lowest rated morning news program in the country. She drags her childhood hero – cranky out-to-pasture news anchor Harrison Ford – to the program in the hope of lending it some gravitas and giving it a jump on the competition. Can she convince Ford to mix fluff pieces with the hard news and will anyone tune in? Can she juggle her career and also a budding romance with colleague Patrick Wilson? I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say “Yes, yes and yes!”
It’s all a load of crap of course, but it’s a load of crap that mostly works. The main false note comes from the romance between McAdams and Wilson. It feels tacked on by genre necessity and to provide a dramatic kick in act two, but it’s never that compelling or interesting. It’s sort of an unneeded appendage, but McAdams is so goddamn winning that if she wants Wilson, you want her to get Wilson. It’s as simple as that.
As far as the promising cast goes, Diane Keaton is pretty good as the show co-host who is bubbly on camera but kind of a bitch off it. Jeff Goldblum has fun as McAdams’ boss. Wilson is blandly charming in a nothing role. Patty D’Arbanville is so good in a tiny part as McAdams’ painfully honest mother that you actually wish she’d been given more screen time. When was the last time a movie made anyone say “Damn! That needed more Patti D’Arbanville!?” She is the cowbell of Morning Glory. Oddly, at the time I mistook her for Patty Duke. Oh well.
Sadly, Harrison Ford is the weakest link in the acting chain and that’s too bad because his ornery character could’ve been a lot of fun and he could’ve juiced the movie beyond something merely inoffensively entertaining. He wasn’t bad. He actually brought an occasional energy to the part we haven’t seen from him in a long time, but he was totally unconvincing as an evening news anchor. He was supposed to be kind of a loose cannon Dan Rather type, but even Dan Rather has a certain news hound drive that is far removed from the more laid back Ford.
Morning Glory is a bit of a mess when you stop and think about it for a minute and it probably could’ve been something much more substantial than it was when you consider how ripe TV news still is for brutal satire, but it’s a decent piece of unassuming entertainment that rests completely on the charms of its female lead. It even had a couple of genuinely funny comic moments. Anyway, the old ladies in the theater where I saw it seemed to be having a good time.