With Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson. Directed by Roger Michell . Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references. 102 minutes.
How bad a year at the movies is 2010? Look at the rave reviews for the entertaining trifle MORNING GLORY and you’ll get a sense that critics are hungering for anything halfway decent. The primary reason to see this thinly-written comedy about a morning news show is to see Rachel McAdams carry her first film. That it remains interesting despite one-note performances by Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton is largely to her credit.
McAdams plays Becky, the producer of a morning show in New Jersey who loses her job in a budget cutback. She ends up with a similar job on “Daybreak,” a network show doing so badly in the ratings that people aren’t even aware it’s still on the air. However she’s young and full of energy, and just knows she can turn things around, if only she can forge her crew into a team. Her first move is to fire the male anchor and pair veteran morning show host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) with equally veteran hard news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford).
They’re both divas, and Pomeroy has no respect for Peck or the whole concept of the morning news programs. The story becomes how Becky works through her own issues and gets Pomeroy to see that doing a light story along with the serious stuff doesn’t mean he’s selling out. McAdams, who has played a whole range of characters, gives us an adorable workaholic who has put the rest of her life on hold. One of the things she needs to learn is that there’s more to life than her job.
The problem is that the rest of the cast isn’t so much playing characters as character types. We don’t learn enough about Peck or Pomeroy other than that they’ve been around for a long time in the business and aren’t thrilled with where they’ve ended up. This is particularly inexcusable for Pomeroy’s character since his backstory is so vague (he was fired at some point but we never find out why) that his redemption is more plot device than payoff.
Becky’s love interest Adam (Patrick Wilson) is a producer on the network’s magazine show who was treated badly by Pomeroy. Other than the fact that other characters think he’s good-looking he doesn’t seem to have much to do in the story. Likewise the head of the news division (Jeff Goldblum) is the stereotypical gruff executive. All these characters exist solely in relationship to how they cause problems or opportunities for Becky, but don’t seem to have lives that extend beyond that.
There are amusing moments along the way, and McAdams is so darn earnest as Becky that we want her to succeed. We don’t know or care much about anyone else on screen, though, so that when the story tries make us care it’s obvious that the filmmakers have given us little reason to do so. “Morning Glory” is worth seeing for showcasing McAdams, who has been so good in movies ranging from “Mean Girls” to “Wedding Crashers” to “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” The disappointment comes from realizing it could have been so much better.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.