An ambitious, still somewhat naive career woman moves to the Big Apple for work and faces struggles—while earning a heavy dose of wisdom along the way—in a competitive corporate landscape. It sounds a lot like 2006's "The Devil Wears Prada" with a liberal peppering of 1988's "Working Girl," and that about describes "Morning Glory." Fast, smart and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, the film adheres too faithfully to formula while nonetheless remaining fascinating in its juicy, seemingly authentic look at the goings-on at a morning news show. Director Roger Michell (2002's "Changing Lanes") and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (2008's "27 Dresses") might have done well to trade conventions for added depth—the whole thing comes off as slighter and frothier than it should—but that doesn't take away how happily diverting it is. Article continues below
When her presumed promotion to senior producer of small-town news show "Good Morning, New Jersey" actually turns into a layoff, 28-year-old workaholic Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) begins to wonder if her professional dreams are ever going to come true. Fortune suddenly smiles her way when she nabs the job as head producer of New York morning program "Daybreak" at network IBS, currently lagging in fourth place behind heavy-hitters like NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." When Becky makes the ballsy decision to fire one of the co-hosts, the scuzzy, disrespectful Paul McVee (Ty Burrell), she must think quick to replace him with someone who might potentially pull in better ratings. Her choice: Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a gruff veteran newsman who instantly knocks horns with longtime anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and won't budge when it comes to his refusal to do fluff pieces and participate in on-air banter. Becky's already got her hands full, and they get even fuller when boss Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) confidentially informs her "Daybreak" is to be cancelled in six weeks and replaced with game shows and soap operas if ratings don't take an exponential upturn. Jerry tells her it can't be done, but Becky isn't about to give up without a fight.
Acerbic and well-acted before going soft in the home stretch, "Morning Glory" is a good movie that could have become a great one with a few narrative tweaks and expanded character development. The film's behind-the-scenes material is superbly conceived, from the daily show meetings to go over and discuss upcoming segments, to the ins and outs within the control booth, to the interoffice connections and sparring that take place, to the imaginative ploys that go into racking up higher ratings. It's all highly amusing and nothing less than immensely watchable, with hard-working, endearingly determined protagonist Becky Fuller the kind of person the viewer wants to follow. As the new kid on the block who learns some harsh lessons on her way to becoming the producer she's always wanted to be, Becky stands in for the audience, acting as their gateway to a specific profession many may not know much about. Rachel McAdams (2009's "Sherlock Holmes") is a joy in the role, a likable, moralistic, but also sort of goofy young woman with a sense of humor to go along with her intelligence. The biggest disappointment with her is that she is never given a chance to put her harshly pessimistic mother (Patti D'Arbanville) in her place when she starts to succeed at a career she's been told will never take off.
While more time could have been given to Becky's move to Manhattan and her spare moments outside of the workplace, the point, one supposes, is that she's almost always on the clock. Still, it would have been nice to see Becky achieve a healthier balance in her personal life, and not one that relied on a meaningless stock romantic subplot. Playing fellow network producer Adam Bennett, who pursues Becky for the sole requirement that the movie have a love story, Patrick Wilson (2010's "The Switch") does what he can with little help from the screenplay. At first, Becky appears to not be interested in Adam, or any man for that matter, and the picture would have been all the better suggesting that she had no attraction to the opposite sex (or sex in general, whichever the case may be). She and Adam share little in common outside of their jobs and the chemistry between them is ineffectual. Director Roger Michell could have stripped the proceedings of all the romance-laden scenes and they wouldn't be missed for a second.
In his sturdiest performance in years, Harrison Ford (2010's "Extraordinary Measures") is exceptional playing against-type as Mike Pomeroy, a man whose stubbornness to do anything other than serious news stories comes from his bitter feelings over never receiving the coveted position of solo evening news anchor. For someone who has idolized him since she was a child, Becky is first discouraged about Mike's cold demeanor, but glimpses a softer side he keeps deeply hidden away. Ford's initially aloof, increasingly antagonistic on-air interplay with Diane Keaton (2008's "Mad Money"), as the more game Colleen Peck, is hilarious, each one so fed up with the other that they begin freely insulting each other during "Daybreak." Keaton is wonderfully self-deprecating in a role that is surprisingly underwritten, not getting much of a chance to truly explore the different facets of her character. By the end, there is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it suggestion that there's more to Mike's and Colleen's rocky relationship than meets the eye, but the film lacks a crucial scene where this arc might have been better established.
Falling victim to one too many music montages (including an embarrassingly sappy one edited in slow-motion as Becky reminisces about the camaraderie and happy times shared with co-workers), "Morning Glory" steps wrong on occasion, but consistently seems to scrappily pick itself back up. A tougher, more penetrating treatment of the same story would have been welcomed with open arms, but what we have instead is more a confection, albeit one that retains eager involvement in Becky's plight to gain respect, find her place, and prove to the naysayers around her that she has what it takes to breathe new life into "Daybreak." It's not life-or-death, but it might as well be for Becky. This is all she's ever wanted to do. Aided in no small part by Rachel McAdams' indelible contributions, the movie makes us care.