YATES: Film goes route of bobble head comedy

Good movies about the television industry are hard to find. The 1976 film “Network” set the bar high, and 1987’s “Broadcast News” followed in its footsteps. As a ten year veteran of the television news industry, I was looking forward to Hollywood’s latest offering about the business in “Morning Glory.” Going in I had high hopes, based largely on a veteran cast that includes Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton. Those hopes were quickly put on standby, as “Morning Glory” ended up like many of its poor predecessors, focusing on fluff rather than substance.

Directed by Roger Michell (“Notting Hill,” “Changing Lanes”), the film follows the exploits of perpetually optimistic and bubbly television producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams). Fuller is riding high as a morning show producer at a New Jersey television station when her position is eliminated in cutbacks. Desperate for a job, she lands the role of executive producer on the deteriorating national morning show “Daybreak” at the fictional network IBS. Desperate for ratings, she turns to a washed up veteran anchorman, curmudgeon Mike Pomeroy (Ford), to turn the show around. Fuller finds herself in over her head when personalities clash, the network threatens cancellation, and her personal life begins to crumble around her.

I’m being kind when I say the plot is flimsy, the characters are unlikeable, and the film’s portrayal of the news industry is unrealistic. The plot has a feel-good predictability to it when Fuller, an unknown producer, somehow lands a job as a national network executive producer. It all goes downhill from there once she actually shows up for work. On her first day on the job, Fuller makes a statement by firing an unpopular and uncooperative anchor, only to replace him with the similarly hostile Pomeroy. She spends the rest of the film trying to appease Pomeroy, rather than doing the job she was hired her to do, which is improve the show. When Pomeroy goes against Fuller’s will and actually breaks a newsworthy story live, Fuller for some inexplicable reason receives all the credit. The cast and crew of the failing morning show constantly complain about their fourth place rating, but do absolutley nothing to improve the show. Any shot the film has at verisimilitude is lost when the news crew literally jumps out of a van and magically goes live with no setup or satellite truck.

The strong veteran cast couldn’t save this film. Ford’s talents are wasted thanks to a flat character in Pomeroy with a dry, monotone delivery. Pomeroy’s co-anchor Colleen Peck (Keaton) spends all 107 minutes of the film bickering with co-workers. McAdams is a great choice for the enthusiastic protagonist, yet her repetitive shortsighted and questionable decision making quickly wears thin on the audience. The only likeable characters — Fuller’s love interest Adam (Patrick Wilson — “Watchmen”) and fellow producer Lenny (John Pankow — “Mad About You”) — are extremely flat and play minor roles in the film. As an audience we are supposed to relate to and root for the film’s protagonist. Fuller comes off as a tad whiny, ditzy, and not fully prepared to be working in network news. At one point she argues that the viewers want entertainment over news, and tha is what she is prepared to give them. Remind me never to tune into “IBS” for coverage of any serious issues facing the world today.

The film briefly touches on the blurring of the line between news and entertainment, featuring a young producer focused on the entertainment side of news and a veteran journalist who feels the golden years of the industry have passed him by. Given the talent at their disposal in Ford and Keaton, it is a somewhat puzzling decision that the film instead focuses on the ditzy morning producer trying to corral all the personalities in the newsroom. Even for a fluff comedy it misses the mark due to misused actors, a silly plot, and a protagonist you don’t find invested in. In today’s reality of news becoming “infotainment,” there was plenty of fodder available for the screenwriters to make this a lighthearted drama with real substance. Unfortunately they chose to go the route of the bobble head comedy, devoid of any real acumen or depth.

Travis Yates

WIEGENSTEIN: Film stands on the repartee of the ‘on-screen talent’

The issue of female professionals has long been a well of plot opportunities for comedic films – from “The Proposal” to “Knocked Up,” highly ambitious women are typically coded as ice queens, wound as tight as piano wire. If only something—someone—could intervene in their grim, lonely lives and show them the romance they’ve been dreaming of all along. “Morning Glory” is the latest in this line. While it thankfully doesn’t come down so strictly on its protagonist, it does include the constant “love of a good man” trope, to the detriment of an otherwise pleasant vehicle for a talented cast.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams, a ray of sunshine on uppers), is introduced in the movie’s opening scene as a consummate workaholic, a trait that is apparently a horrifying turn-off to a potential date. To top it off, Becky is a journalist, that breed of person already unwilling to engage with their non-work life (or so the movies have told us) – after all, the news never quits.

Indeed, she has her work cut out for her, both at her initial gig doing production of a small-time morning broadcast show (starting her day at 4 a.m.), and upon her being recruited for “Daybreak,” which currently sits behind “Good Morning America,” “The Early Show,” and any number of other fictional TV network programs at the bottom of the heap. Becky proves herself as someone willing to take significant risks—including firing 50% of the on-air talent at her first pitch meeting.

Enter Harrison Ford, remaining well in his wheelhouse of gravelly-voiced cranks, as Mike Pomeroy, a formerly-great broadcast reporter who still hangs out with Dan Rather for a drink now and then. Due to a contract stipulation—contract details are always so useful in stories like these—he reluctantly agrees to join the “Daybreak” team, currently consisting of a goofy weatherman, a barely-literate celebrity reporter, and Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), who can generate morning pleasantness mere seconds after verbally incinerating Becky on her first day.

Sadly, McAdams has to spend a fair amount of time attempting to create chemistry with fellow newsman Patrick Wilson, who has consistently proven himself to be as alluring as drywall. Her true relationship is the one generated with Ford, and while the plot leaves the characterization of both McAdams and Ford motionless for too long, the pair are able to sell this. Ford in particular manages to capture the needed blend of sentimentality and gruffness, though at times he sounds like he’s challenging Christian Bale’s Batman to a hoarse-off.

The extreme dearth of Diane Keaton is perhaps the film’s largest misstep. 90 minutes of the sarcastic back-and-forth between Colleen and Mike would make a fine film in and of itself. McAdams, meanwhile, continues to assert her status among the finer young(ish) actors at work today. The story may be predictable, and a continuation of an already — irritating gender trend. But, much like “Daybreak” itself, the true successes come from the repartee of the on-screen talent.

Anna Wiegenstein