24 January 2011


Once in a while, somebody cracks the code and puts out a romcom that has likeable characters and a properly funny and talented cast. To be fair to Morning Glory, it's as much a workplace comedy as a romantic comedy, and it's also a satire about breakfast programming, albeit a very fluffy one.

Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a hardworking and dedicated TV executive of the kind usually played much worse by Katherine Heigl. When she loses her job on a local breakfast show, she finds herself begging for a job nobody else wants on another network, presenting their apocalyptically bad breakfast magazine show, "Daybreak". With six weeks to turn the show around, she begins making changes to get Daybreak up to scratch, starting with hiring veteran anchor Mike Pomeroy to bolster the show's credibility.

The Heigl connection is what's most astonishing to me. This is precisely the kind of film that you can imagine Katherine Heigl ruining, because its lead is exactly the kind of character she plays. Career driven, energetic, klutzy and with apparent self-esteem issues despite obviously looking like a cover girl for some magazine or other. The script itself is nothing that couldn't be overwhelmed by her shrewy and shouty shtick. And so this film's masterstroke, and the thing that turns Morning Glory into something a million times more enjoyable than something like The Ugly Truth, is its casting.

For one thing, it works nicely as a banner for why Rachel McAdams should be a much bigger star than she is now, although it also kind of suggests that she's been wise with her choices. She hasn't been in more of those Heigl-esque films, and thus far she's got a pretty good track record. More power to her, but she proves her mettle here as a much better comedy actress than I had previously thought. The crucial thing about a character like Becky is that she's not annoying when she's jumping up and down and running all around trying to hold this chaotic mess of a professional life together. You actually give a shit about whether she succeeds or fails.

The other nice touch is the pairing of Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, with Keaton proving to be a reliable foil, as she always has been, and Ford coming to life in a way that we haven't seen in a long, long time. I've been saying for a while that his upcoming Cowboys & Aliens is precisely the kind of film he should be making these days, but this has actually changed my mind. I want to see Henry Jones Jr. in some more comedies. The guy has impeccable comic timing, and we haven't seen that utilised enough in all of those films where his wife and/or family are kidnapped or killed.

As to the satire, it's covering a bit of the same ground as All About Steve. OK, OK, I'm sorry for mentioning All About Steve, but please, let's be selective and remember that the best part of that misjudged horror was the parody of rolling news mentality. And in a nice fluffy film like Morning Glory, that's the most apt comparison. It's not Network, because there are certain characters who don't get angry or shout even once, and it's not Anchorman, because the news was probably the least part of that film's zeitgeist-y comedy. It's important to say though, that the film's sense of humour about breakfast show banality is one of the highlights.

Having liked it much more than I ever expected, I'm eager to avoid exaggerating its appeal. It's not perfect, by a long stretch. The more obvious touches come straight from the romantic comedy playbook, including the hugely obtrusive soundtrack and its tendency to herald funny montages and the like. Similarly, I would have shed no tears at all if the film had ended ten minutes earlier than it did, mostly because this very late point in the film is where they chose to bring in some new conflict for Becky's character and install a false mad dash moment. At least they didn't string out the obvious denouement across the whole film, but even in its minimised form, it still rings false.

Morning Glory is what you'd call the sure thing in cinemas this week. Black Swan's screeching melodramatic horror won't be for everyone, and the only other film targeted at the female audience this week is The Dilemma, the quality of which remains to be seen. On the other hand, you have this film, which is entirely fluffy but also very charming and winsome. So much of why it works is down to the casting. They went for Harrison Ford, not Robert DeNiro looking for a paycheck. Patrick Wilson, not Gerard Butler. Jeff Goldblum, not anybody else but Jeff Goldblum. And most importantly, Rachel McAdams instead of Katherine bloody Heigl. Give it a chance, and you'll be very pleasantly surprised.

Morning Glory is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Morning Glory, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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