Morning Glory

By all rights Morning Glory, the latest from Notting Hill director Roger Michell, shouldn’t work. If you met either of its two main characters on the street, you would immediately run the other way, and with good reason. But then, before you know it, Morning Glory has become one of the year’s most charming and fun films, with a knockout performance from Rachel McAdams and the best performance by Harrison Ford in years.

McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a go-getter of a producer at Good Morning, New Jersey! She’s full of life, pluck, and ambition, and she lives with one eye on her Blackberry and the other on the 24-hour TV news channels.

When she gets unceremoniously laid off, her resumé lands on the desk of the news division head (Jeff Goldblum) at fourth-place network IBS, whose Daybreak morning show is, “just like The Today Show… without the money, viewers, or respect.” Realizing things can’t get much worse, he hires Becky as executive producer.

She immediately walks in and shows what she’s got, firing the skeevy co-anchor Paul McVee (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell) and deftly handling a dozen different issues that are thrown at her within her first 30 seconds. It’s the other anchor, veteran Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), who’s proving to be a little more difficult—confident that her new, out-of-her-league producer will be gone before nightfall.

When Becky discovers a loophole in the contract of Mike Pomeroy (Ford), the über-respected and über-grumpy ex-evening news anchor who’s enjoying semi-retired life, she convinces him (for the love of money) to get back behind the desk. Of course, being the pompous and pedantic “I’m above all this” pro that he is, he seethes on the anchor desk, trading barbs with Colleen and refusing virtually every story that’s handed to him.

Ford (at least this more ‘seasoned’ version of him) was born to play this part, and he hits a home run. His grumbly, gruff delivery is perfect, as are his constant reminders of all the ‘serious’ journalistic things he’s accomplished. “I once held a cool washcloth to the forehead of Mother Teresa during a cholera epidemic,” he says. “I will not say the word ‘fluffy.’”

McAdams, meanwhile, will quite simply charm your socks off. Her initial too-perky persona quickly becomes endearing, and it’s due entirely to her honest, exquisite performance. In many other actresses’ hands, the character would have started as annoying and just stayed there, but she brings us along for the ride as she goes from tousled, scatter-brained loony to a sure-footed, take-charge leader.

The script, by The Devil Wears Prada’s Aline Brosh McKenna, is, for the most part, spot-on. It gets weighed down with an awkward, unnecessary subplot of Becky’s fledgling relationship with a fellow producer (Patrick Wilson), but the rest of it is equal parts hilarity and heart.

Credit Michell, too, for helping Morning Glory rise above standard rom-com fare. His occasional insertion of some creative camera angles and other cinematic goodies make the movie that much more interesting.

No, you may not start out liking either Becky or Pomeroy, but by the end of Morning Glory, I’ll be damned if you wouldn’t want to have them both over for what would promise to be a very fun dinner.

4/5 stars