Posted by: greercn | January 24, 2011

Morning Glory

It’s a cappuccino froth of a movie, leaving a likeable taste but whipped up out of very little. I am left feeling well-entertained, but uneasy. It appears to worry about the dumbing down of TV – yet it seems to celebrate this too.

The utterly irrepressible Duracell bunny of a heroine is Becky Fuller, played in a mad dash by Canadian Rachel McAdams. Her mother is played by the wonderful Patti d’Arbanville, who is on screen too briefly. Becky loses her TV job in New Jersey but finds another in New York City. Her challenge is to take failing morning show “Daybreak” and make it successful. Will this work?

It’s an American comedy, so hazard a guess.  The presence of Diane Keaton as older co-anchor Coleen Peck is very cheering. Keaton is a fabulous physical comic and seems to be in a totally different movie, having a lot of fun and being joyfully silly. In real life, no woman of Keaton’s age would get prime time TV anywhere.

The early scenes of Becky looking for a new job are really very good.  News conferences and team meetings feel true. The behind-the-scenes events are set in realisticaly shabby rooms, in contrast to the gleaming studio.

Jeff Goldblum, as the boss who takes a chance on Becky is distinctive in his role is and, as her colleague, John Pankow is just great. Patrick Wilson, as the love interest, shows a real flair for romantic comedy. Where the movie seems to lose its edge is in introducing Harrison Ford’s character Mike Pomeroy, a hard news man who feels reduced by being on a breakfast show.

Pomeroy is grumpy and sarcastic, which we are meant to interpret as his being cleverer than the others. That does not always work. In some scenes – particularly with Keaton – it’s very funny. 

I am conflicted in forming a view on this. The British part of me is screaming “wait just a minute. Becky is going more and more downmarket in her successful quest for a ratings boost. Isn’t this wrong?”. The North American part of me sees the film as being in a long tradition of TV sitcoms and I suspend disbelief and just enjoy the whole. The French part of me loves the physicality of it and the cheap but genuinely amusing laughs.

To be fair. I didn’t look at my watch once and everyone else in the Stratford Picturehouse audience was laughing harder than me.  They loved it and were chatting happily afterwards.

It won’t win any critics’ choice awards, I think.  Directed by Roger Michell of  “Notting Hill” and written by Aline Brosh McKenna of the very funny “27 Dresses” and “The Devil Wears Prada”, it’s aiming squarely at populist sentiments. But do we really want to be celebrating when Pomeroy appears to surrender his principles?  Would Walter Cronkite have thought this morning TV show was a good career move?

My verdict is to go see it if you have been involved in journalism and have an interest in how programmes are made. Or, if you love Rachel McAdams, who I didn’t like in “State of Play” or “Sherlock Holmes”, but liked a lot in this.

It doesn’t help that the title makes me think of Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar-winning performance in the 1933 “Morning Glory”, which is absolutely nothing to do with this movie.  My brain makes comparisons which don’t help this new film at all. To add to that, you never have any idea why it is called “Morning Glory”, unless that’s ironic?

When it comes on TV (and it will) I will watch it again and laugh at the verbal and physical gags. But I won’t buy the DVD, although I do applaud the attempt to show strong women, workaholism and the nature of daily TV demands. I would be much happier, on reflection, if I wasn’t uneasy about the pervasive growth of infotainment, with reading and thought appearing to become the preserve of a dwindling band of people.

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