It isn’t often you see a film in which every actor is painfully misdirected. Rachel McAdams performs most of Morning Glory as if she were a little girl on a bad sugar high, always with the anxious babbling and the perky expressions and the neurotic enthusiasm she brings to her situation, which is itself so horribly contrived that it doesn’t belong in a movie so much as it does on a sitcom. Harrison Ford, an accomplished actor if ever there was one, delivers every line like a growling dog ready to attack an intruder, his voice low and gravelly and unendurably monotone. Diane Keaton, also quite accomplished, plays her character as a cliché – laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside, crunching on pills as if they were candy. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum, although in his case, it doesn’t have much to do with direction; he can’t seem to be anyone other than himself, no matter what role he plays.
Morning Glory is an utterly ridiculous film. The plot is goofy and scatterbrained, relying almost entirely on throwaway gags and set-ups that wouldn’t even pass muster in a romantic comedy. The performances are desperately broad and show not the slightest traces of truth. It was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the same woman who brought the far funnier and far more intelligent The Devil Wears Prada to the big screen. Having followed that with the awful 27 Dresses and now this, I’d hate to think that her success with Prada was nothing more than a fluke.
The plot: McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a workaholic New Jersey TV news producer who dreams of landing a job over at The Today Show. After getting fired from a local news studio, she’s immediately hired as the executive producer for a failing New York morning news show called Daybreak. The boss, Jerry Barnes (Goldblum), interviews her with the kind of depressing certainty that one must apply to choosing a casket. Everything behind the scenes is chaos, the studio populated by annoying, insufferable caricatures that sling all sorts of meaningless ideas at her. On air, the show is a dispensable mishmash of cooking segments, animal acts, and celebrity gossip. Oh, and the occasional weather report, provided Ernie Appleby (Matt Malloy), a silly man who thinks rooster-shaped weather vanes are fascinating for some reason. Becky’s mission is to prevent the show from being cancelled.
The lead anchor, Colleen Peck (Keaton), seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a woman who has seen so many co-anchors and executive producers come and go, she has given up all hope. The latest co-anchor, a sleazy egomaniac with a foot fetish, is immediately fired; this leaves Becky able to pursue Mike Pomeroy (Ford), a man whose years of esteemed reporting is second only the dubious distinction of being the third worst person in the world. Indeed, he’s a broken, spiteful, difficult, miserable soul – angry at what passes for news nowadays, frustrated that he’s not wanted for in-depth investigative journalism but merely for morning banter. Unfortunately for him, he has time left on his contract. Becky not only knows this, but also uses it against him. And so, with extreme misgivings, he becomes the new co-anchor of Daybreak.
As Becky tries desperately to raise the show’s ratings, she begins a relationship with a fellow producer named Adam (Patrick Wilson), who finds Becky interesting but struggles to tear her away from her ever-ringing Blackberry. He’s the film’s only tolerable character, probably because he’s developed at a level beyond a series of bizarre quirks. Alas, it’s precisely because of this that he disappears into the background; all the weird characters take center stage, and while that might sound like a lot of fun, here it’s just plain exhausting. The relationship itself is nothing more or less than typical romcom material, something I can and do get my fill of year after year after year.
There was, in short, nothing much I liked about Morning Glory. Its biggest miscalculation is its cast – or, more accurately, how the cast is directed. Harrison Ford in particular is an embarrassingly odd fit, his voice rarely if ever rising above a grating one-note lull. When he finally is given the opportunity to show genuine emotion, it soon becomes clear that it’s in service of a scene of amazingly clunky sentimentalism. Watching it, one wonders if McKenna forgot that the film was intended to be a comedy. I also found nothing appealing about Rachel McAdams’ character, a young woman so peppy and bungling that it surpasses charmingly eccentric and becomes just plain annoying. If this movie were an actual morning news show, I’d recommend you either sleep through it or try another channel.