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Morning Glory

by on November 10, 2010
 

“Morning Glory” is basically “Broadcast News” flipped on its head. Instead of valuing hard-edged journalism over TV showmanship, “Morning Glory” champions the fluff.

The set-up is that Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a hard-charging young executive producer brought in to turn around the moribund “Daybreak” morning show. She hires a downfallen Dan Rather-type anchorman, crustily played by Harrison Ford, to shake things up. They spend the rest of the movie battling over lightweight vs. substantive journalism.

As someone who started out covering politics and couldn’t wait to jump to the features side of the newsroom, maybe I’m just a soft touch. But I found this movie delightful and often raucously funny, with sharp performances by McAdams and Ford.

McAdams draws a character as distinctive as Holly Hunter’s Oscar-nominated turn in “Broadcast News,” playing Becky as a borderline neurotic woman whose career consumes her whole life. After she’s laid off from her job on “Good Morning, New Jersey,” her mother unceremoniously dumps cold water on her dream of one day producing the “Today” show.

“At 8, it was adorable. At 18, it was inspiring. At 28, it’s officially embarrassing. I just want it to stop before it becomes heartbreaking,” she says.

But a harried network boss (Jeff Goldblum) gives her a shot at “Daybreak,” figuring he’s got nothing to lose. The show is perpetually in fourth place in the ratings, is stuck with a tiny budget and a shoddy studio where all the doorknobs fall off, and the on-air talent looks like the castoffs of every cheesy show that ever got cancelled.

Becky sends a signal by firing the creepy co-anchor (Ty Burrell) and encouraging veteran Colleen Peck to let loose a little during the cooking sessions and exotic animal segments. But she really lands her white whale when she convinces — well, strong-arms, actually — Mike Pomeroy into joining the show.

As Mike never fails to remind everyone, he’s had one of the most storied careers in TV news: eight Peabody Awards, a Pulitzer and 16 Emmys. He only agrees to be on “Daybreak” so he can collect millions over the last two years of his contract, and oozes dripping condescension during his every interaction, on-air or off.

With his slicked-back hair and melodious grumble of a voice, Ford gives Mike some depth beneath the growl. Here’s a man who’s given his entire life over to his job, to the detriment of his personal relationships, and he’s been rewarded by getting the boot.

When he watches his successor on the evening news, swilling pricey scotch from a tumbler, Mike glares at the screen and fumes, “That’s my chair!” Ford shows us the man’s bile.

Director Roger Michell (“Venus”) keeps a delicate but firm hand on the film’s tone, which combines generous helpings of funny and sad. The original screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) is clever and zippy, though it apportions too much screen time to some things and not enough to others.

For example, I was disappointed that Diane Keaton has a much skimpier role than previews suggested. We only see Colleen’s on-set diva act, and nothing more. There’s one scene where she and Mike engage in some acid banter on the show, and we expect it to go somewhere, but it’s quickly dropped.

Becky’s romance with another producer (Patrick Wilson) similarly feels short-shrifted, trotted out just long enough to remind us what she’s missing out on with her crazy work life.

Still, the strong far outweighs the weak in this spirited flick that, like its warring journalists, realizes that sweet and sour mix together quite nicely. See? You’re reading a movie Web site right now, so obviously you enjoy a little fluff.