If nothing else, Morning Glory has an A-list feel. It has an A-list cast: Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, and Rachel McAdams. It has an A-list release date: right before the holidays. And its premise—plucky young producer (McAdams) tries to get a semi-retired newsman (Harrison) to do happy talk on the morning news— is reminiscent of the decidedly A-List Broadcast News.
But Morning Glory is not an A-list film. It barely makes it onto the B-list.
So what’s the problem? Let’s start with a script that seems to have been buried in a vault for 20 years. Not only is this a film about TV that makes no mention of Hulu, Facebook, or TiVo (there is one token reference to YouTube), but at one point, the low-rated morning show is threatened to be cancelled in favor of—wait for it—game shows and soap operas. (The only thing more endangered than low-rated morning talk shows? Game shows and soap operas.)
The other problem is the film’s aggressive cutesiness. McAdams, who is undeniably adorable, is playing that stock chick-flick character—the spunky, charmingly discombobulated career gal who’s too busy for love. If that’s not enough, virtually every transition in the film is accompanied by some chipper, girl-power pop song.
Then there’s Harrison Ford. I’ve complained before that Ford, handsome as ever, has lost his cavalier twinkle, his inner Hans Solo, if you will. He now seems grumpy and lumbering. It almost works here, as Ford—playing a mashup between Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite—is meant to be imposing and miserable. But even the scenes where he supposed to lighten up don’t quite ring true. His smile looks constipated, as if he’s lost the muscle memory of a genuine grin.
Diane Keaton is underused as the game, Meredith Vieira-style co-anchor. I so wish they’d played up the love/hate spark between the two old timers more. It’s hinted at, but never explored.
Morning Glory is directed by Roger Michell, who did Notting Hill, with a script by Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. (More A-Listers!) These two at least know how to the keep the film spry. McAdams has a great scene her first day on the job where she fires a fatuous news anchor (Ty Burrell) and wins the adoration of her new staff. There’s an exasperated station manager played by Jeff Goldblum, a paternal confidante (a la Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada) played by John Pankow, and even a hunky new boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), who is meant to find her flustered obsessiveness irresistible. This all works, albeit in a predictable sort of way.
In the end, the experience of watching Morning Glory is akin to going to a 5-star restaurant and eating a cheese omelet. It’s fine as omelets go, but considering the setting, you were hoping for more.