Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams Charm in ‘Morning Glory’

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CHICAGO – The Holiday Season for films is populated by epic crowd pleasers and artsy Oscar bait. In between are the warm popcorn movies that don’t attempt to be anything except what they are. Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and Patrick Wilson illustrate that cinematic point in the appealing and accessible “Morning Glory.”

Strangely, Morning Glory is a somewhat “anti-Network.” Instead of showing the decline of national discourse through the substitution of fluff for news media substance – as the 1976 classic film diatribe “Network” expressed – this film asserts that the morning show (think “The Today Show”) method of infotainment is the new normal, and serious news is the rejected outsider. Which was exactly what Network predicted. Welcome to 2010.

Harrison Ford is in full bore old man curmudgeon mode as Mike Pomeroy, an old guard news anchor like Dan Rather who has been unceremoniously bounced from the evening news on the IBS Network. IBS also has a traditional morning show, called Daybreak, that has been on the air for 47 years. It is currently being hosted by Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and is dead last in the ratings.

Enter Becky (Rachel McAdams), the perky producer who has just been downsized from a local New Jersey morning show, and is desperate for work. After interviewing with a skeptical network honcho (Jeff Goldblum), she is given the executive producer position on Daybreak, and has a specific timeframe to turn around the abysmal rating numbers. At the same time, she meets a fellow IBS employee named Adam (Patrick Wilson), and worries about starting a relationship in the midst of her new job.

Some Rise: Rachel McAdams as Becky, Diane Keaton as Colleen and Harrison Ford as Mike in ‘Morning Glory’
Some Rise: Rachel McAdams as Becky, Diane Keaton as Colleen and Harrison Ford as Mike in ‘Morning Glory’
Photo credit: Macall Polay for © 2010 Paramount Pictures

Seeking a new direction for Daybreak, Becky discovers a clause in Mike Pomeroy’s contract that says he has to accept a network offer, or forfeit his severance. When the hard news anchor meets the soft squishiness of morning television, more than a few clashes are bound to take place.

The film is as good as the cast makes it, and everyone pitches in at a pretty high level. McAdams proves she can handle the lead without burying it, and her post modern Mary Tyler Moore act is believable, despite being forced to deliver some pretty bad dialogue. She holds the soft premise together through sheer will, and by the time she gets to gaily run through New York City in slow motion, there is actually a moment of rooting for her.

Why Harrison Ford took on this role is mysterious (as Ford himself is lately), but he actually gives the character a stoic nature that never wavers, gratefully. He is a “lion in winter” and plays it up to the hilt. Credit goes to both the narrative (screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna) and the direction by Roger Michell in the decision to keep Ford’s character essential to how a human being is, which makes all of his small concessions that much larger.

Give credit also to the veteran actress Diane Keaton for taking a background supporting role and providing it with some comic starch. It’s notable to remember that Keaton has been around for close to 40 years, continuing to work while other actresses from her era are collecting Social Security. Getting an opportunity to portray a prickly but proud television personality – think Barbara Walters if she had no power – Keaton has fun but never becomes a scapegoat. Her character actually figures out how to get the ratings up and goes about it in very funny ways. Cheers to Annie Hall.

Another less-than-stellar premise in the film, besides the eager to please dialogue, was the love interest for McAdams, the usually more interesting Patrick Wilson. Here is a guy who has typically eschewed roles that exploited his matinee good looks, actually taking parts that showcase the downside of the handsome man (”Little Children,” “Lakeview Terrace”). But in Morning Glory he plays the “boyfriend,” in all manner that exaggeration takes form. At one point, I thought one of the news stories might be that he was kidnapped, because he leaves the narrative for so long. Is it wrong for the Rachel McAdams character to simply be single and not blather about it? Apparently so.

Dreamer: Rachel McAdams in ‘Morning Glory’
Dreamer: Rachel McAdams in ‘Morning Glory’
Photo credit: © 2010 Paramount Pictures

It would have been more interesting as well to keep TV show within the film, Daybreak, more low rent, but then how would the plucky executive producer gal save the day? And the film does become more lively when she begins to conjure up some rating stunts (using a Willard Scott-like weatherman as the comic patsy), although again what does it say about the gullibility of the American audience? Best not to examine that too closely.

This is an old fashion movie star movie for the holiday season, giving its performers a decent enough journey to let them do what they do. Yes, the film Network was nearly 40 years ago, when Diane Keaton was a bubbly Woody Allen foil and Harrison Ford was being fitted for space togs. Morning Glory is the place where we’ve all ended up, which is not so bad.

”Morning Glory” opens everywhere on November 12th. Featuring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna, directed by Roger Michell. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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