Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Morning Glory
News Made To Order, Sunny Side Downright Funny

Rachel McAdams as Becky Fuller, Diane Keaton as Colleen Peck and Harrison Ford as Mike Pomeroy in "Morning Glory", directed by Roger Michell. 

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Energetic, enjoyable and entertaining, Roger Michell's comedy "Morning Glory" is the best time you'll have at a movie theater this year.  A cousin of "Broadcast News" and "His Girl Friday", and a far sunnier satire than "Network", "Morning Glory" is a clever, witty, often funny send-up of behind-the-scenes events at a floundering network television morning magazine show.

IBS, a news TV network operating in New York City, is dead last in the ratings for its morning programming.  Top-level executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) needs to turn things around pronto.  Enter Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), a fearless, frenetic TV news producer.  A hurricane of energy, she plunges through the dysfunctional stench of personalities to shape the failing morning show "Daybreak" (think "Today").  The name of the fictional show suggests an inertia and blandness that is nothing if not routine.  Young Becky's task will be more than an uphill battle.

A cheery movie filled with good all-around performances from its mix of veteran actors and newer stars, "Morning Glory" accurately nails and skewers the culture of American network TV news programming, its personalities and politics.  The film's characters are reflections of reality in the news business, even with the modest tweaks the film makes for Hollywood's sake.  You can scour YouTube for wild weather men and women on TV news broadcasts across America and find things arguably more outrageous than what unfolds in Mr. Michell's film.  (You can listen to this clip of a popular New York City nightly news anchor, circa 2008, during a news promo.)

A good satire is supposed to make an audience think, and through its laughs "Morning Glory" undeniably reflects not only on the ratings but the lengths to which smart, talented people will go to give a salivating public what it wants.  Heavier satires like "Bamboozled", "The Producers", "A Face In The Crowd" and the aforementioned "Network" all take on the ratings issue more urgently than "Morning Glory" does, but the latter film at least introduces, if not travels down the road potentially ruinous to its participants.  To that end, "Morning Glory" is keenly aware of its role as a bright, warm bit of nudge-nudge, wink-wink comedy and not anything too much deeper. 

J.J. Abrams ("Lost", "Alias", "M:i:III", "Star Trek") is one of the producers of Mr. Michell's film, which may or may not surprise some.  Mr. Abrams has harnessed a cadre of fine actors here.  Most impressive are the performances of Ms. McAdams (who was in last year's political-journalism drama "State Of Play") and Harrison Ford, excellent as an egotistical, curmudgeonly multiple Emmy Award-winning news anchor who's a dyed-in-the-wool hard news man. 

Diane Keaton as Colleen Peck in "Morning Glory", directed by Roger Michell.  Paramount

Ms. McAdams blazes the screen with a physical power and panache, adeptly switching tones as a woman for all seasons as Becky.  Charm, intelligence and silliness, though not quite outright lunacy, line her character.  There's an all-out industry to what Ms. McAdams does on the screen in "Morning Glory", and her Becky is smarter than she may sometimes appear on the surface.  She injects a snappy, humorous demeanor to Becky, who often looks as if she's about to burst into song, or is at least asked to sing.

Mr. Ford's character Mike Pomeroy isn't as caricatured as you might think.  While he's obviously a composite of legendary American news anchors or reporters, and sounds as gruff or grumpy as a number of Clint Eastwood's film characters -- Mike could just as well be saying "get off my lawn" every time he's spoken to -- he's also a wily, experienced journalist.  In this age of throw-shit-to-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks tabloid news TV programming, Mike represents the last hold out from a journalistic era that would make Fred Friendly, Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite proud.

Diane Keaton is a fine presence in a smaller role as a comparatively even-keeled but put-upon co-anchor, and John Pankow (in last year's disastrous "Bride Wars") is a welcome sight here as a veteran television associate producer and father figure.  So memorable, even iconic, in "To Live And Die In L.A." 25 years ago, Mr. Pankow is once again an appealing sidekick, this time on a much more light-hearted level.

The film deserves and finds time for a little romance, and its intervention amidst the hilarity never becomes distracting.  Writer Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada") pens a script that keeps moving, bolstered by sharp, laugh-out-loud dialogue.  Ms. McKenna has a finely-tuned ear to the industry, and her words leap off the screen.  She knows these characters, their secrets and their alternate selves.

"Morning Glory" knows one emotion: joyous.  Mr. Michell has always thrown keen enthusiasm and movement onto the big screen in the films he directs, whether they are upbeat ("Notting Hill") or less so ("Changing Lanes", "The Mother", "Enduring Love", "Venus").  The emotional tone of his films are often singular and predominating, so if your mood needs lightening his comedies, like this one, are a feel-good guarantee.  If you want a gritty, powerful film, take your pick.

With: Patrick Wilson, Matt Malloy, Ty Burrell, Patti D'Arbanville, Bruce Altman, and an amusing collection of cameo appearances.

"Morning Glory" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some sexual content, including dialogue, language and brief drug references.  The film's running time is one hour and 43 minutes.

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