Rachel McAdams is goddamn intoxicating. She is spunk and wit, a motherfucking firecracker that blows up (from a safe distance) in Morningly Glory. She is adorable as hell here, smart and ditsy, a heartmelt smile that dazzles, goofy and bumbling without being dumb. And sweet terrible Moses, she can fill out a pair of underwear. She’s been decent to good in the past, though she still carries with her the mark of The Notebook. In Morning Glory she conquers the screen, all Lucille Ball and and Annie Hall, making the case that she’s the next great romantic comedy heroine, one who eschews high concept in favor of narrative. In Morning Glory, she’s found a winsome, lightweight story to tell. Indeed, if there were more chick flicks like Morning Glory, “chick flick” wouldn’t be such a derogatory label.
McAdams is Becky Fuller in Morning Glory, hard-driven, spunky go-getter executive producer of a New Jersey morning show who is let go when the company downsizes. She takes up her lot with Daybreak, a struggling national morning show, perpetually behind the big three in the ratings. She enthusiastically rambles into the position behind the support of the network higher-up (Jeff Goldblum), who sees her as a last resort, an exec producer with no pedigree but a lot of pluck, who’ll either save the show or finally put it out of its misery.
On her first day on the job, she shit-cans the male co-anchor on the show (Ty Burrell), a hack and a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. To replace him, Becky turns to veteran Pulitzer-Prize winning newsman, the humorless Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), who is riding out his contract after he was kicked from the nightly news desk for a younger, more charismatic anchor. Becky sells Mike as the cornerstone of her “Daybreak” relaunch, but Mike — stuck in Dan Rather mode — is an unwilling accomplice, refusing to engage in morning show banter with his female co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a “Daybreak” institution who rose from the ranks of beauty pageants 40 years ago.
There’s also a minor romantic subplot with Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson, whose junk is — for once — spared), a colleague in another section of the network’s news division. That the romantic plot would be relegated to a supporting narrative is part of what sets Morning Glory apart from so many other women-in-the-workplace romantic comedies. There are a few nods to the fact that Becky is a workaholic, but in many ways, Morning Glory embraces it without demeaning the love story. Bennett, atypical of the romantic leads in these movies, doesn’t compete with the job — he’s supportive without being emasculated — while McAdams is never reduced to the shrewish no-life future cat lady common in gendered comedy. It’s taken a while, but romantic comedies may be catching up to the 21st century realities.
McAdams, harried with bangs perpetually in her face, steals Morning Glory, breathing so much chirpy life into Aline Brosh McKenna’s script (The Devil Wears Prada) that it’s hard to detect its faults, making it easy to gloss over the occasionally vapid moment and forgive the film when it careens off the rails near the end before jumping back onto its Lady-Rocky formula. It’s a lively movie that floats along on McAdams energy and a feel-good soundtrack, as well as the surprisingly well-cast John Pankow (who most remember as Ira Buchman in “Mad About You”). It’s not a thematically heavy movie, but it does gently explore where the line is moving between news and entertainment, trying to find a workable model between Network and TMZ. Harrison Ford, reprising his late career curmudgeonliness, provides for a decent foil, too, one not willing to compromise on his own outdated vision until he sees the value in it, while Diane Keaton is there, really, to hand over the reins of her career to McAdams, a worthy successor.
Morning Glory is not, however, a perfect movie nor does it rise to the same league as Broadcast News. But it is a movie that entertains without insulting your intelligence. It’s formulaic, but it has exceptional rhythm, enough so that you want to accentuate the positives of the experience and float through it on the tenacious charisma of McAdams.