Morning Glory

Orange lightDirector Roger Michell’s feel good comedy Morning Glory, set in the sleep deprived world of early morning TV broadcasting, is a lightweight crowd pleaser that makes very strong and very different statements about its two top billing stars.

The first is that Rachel McAdams, whose bubbly champagne charisma and girl next door good looks are on display in the central role as an upstart TV producer determined to revive her new show’s flailing ratings, proves for the first time she can carry a movie. McAdams showcases an endearing blend of awkward and charming, scented with more than a whiff of Julia Roberts in her prime, and you can best bet that face isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

On the flip side Harrison Ford’s performance as a grumpy egomaniac veteran journalist forced to eat humble pie when he grudgingly becomes the aforementioned show’s new co-anchor tells a different, far grimmer story.

Ford continues to throw a seemingly random array of genre movies at multiplex audiences (submarine drama: K19: The Widowmaker [2002], whodunit: Hollywood Homicide [2003], heist thriller: Firewall [2006], etcetera) to see if anything sticks. To be generous, the results have been less than impressive, and while Ford needs to continue to roll the dice to see if he can find a circuit breaker, Morning Glory isn’t it.

Dianne Keaton contributes a likable low-fi performance as Colleen Peck, veteran anchor of Day Break who has seen many a co-presenter come and go and the program’s ratings slowly decline. When Becky Fuller (McAdams) comes on board (hired by an irresistibly smug Jeff Goldblum) she’s desperate to get the ship sailing right and cunningly recruits fading legend Mike Pomeroy (Ford) after discovering a clause in his contract with the network that basically says he needs to accept the job or forfeit a very large pay packet.

The cast and crew are routinely shocked by Pomeroy’s brusque holier-than-thou attitude and fish sort-of out of water predicament, his character generating the sort of resent we’d expect Kerry O’Brien to project if he were plonked alongside Kerri-Anne Kennerley and asked to introduce a new segment about the benefits of regular moisturizing and early morning Yoga. The teats of that concept are extensively milked and Pomeroy’s bastardy capitalized and highlighted. Aline Brosh McKenna’s screenplay serves Ford some great lines on a platter:

“Why does the ad have to say ‘watch it while you drink your morning coffee’?” the contemptuous high-hat journo grumbles. “Why can’t it say ‘watch it while you take your morning dump’?””

The problem is that Ford badly over-plays the role, grumbling vitriol with an almost cartoony effect, and some of his early scenes are awful. Morning Glory generally takes a dive when he appears, and the reverse should have applied.

No doubt Ford embraced Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) with a goodhearted gust of “yup, still got it” and a hope that it would kick in one almighty second wind, but it had the opposite effect. To paraphrase the older and wearier Professor Jones – now approaching retirement and not exactly aging gracefully – things just aren’t as easy as they used to be, and The Crystal Skill reminded audiences that Harrison Ford’s career is – or at least feels like – a relic of the past.

It wasn’t a bad choice for Ford to rub shoulders with Rachel McAdams and feed off her young energy but once more it had the opposite effect, reinforcing McAdams as everything Ford is not — a radiant upstart with a promising career ahead of her. In between takes on the set of Morning Glory, Harrison Ford could have been forgiven for taking McAdams aside and offering some sage advice: enjoy this while it lasts. It’s not going to be easy forever.

Morning Glory’s Australian theatrical relase date: January 6, 2010.

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