Morning Glory is a working-girl comedy, one of those cheerful movies in which the plucky heroine lands a man as she conquers her career. It's part of a grand Hollywood tradition that goes back at least as far as 1940, when Rosalind Russell played a scoop-hungry journalist in His Girl Friday.
In the 1980s, Melanie Griffith took the role into the post-feminist era playing a secretary masquerading as her female boss in a film actually entitled Working Girl. More recently, Meryl Streep took over the part of the wicked she-boss in The Devil Wears Prada, playing a controlling magazine editor to Anne Hathaway's put-upon assistant.
Now, Rachel McAdams plays an ambitious young TV producer trying to convince a grumpy old Emmy-winning news correspondent (Harrison Ford) to reinvent himself as a chipper morning-show host.
And at this point, the working girl's family tree gets tangled in a spot of incestuous procreation. Morning Glory was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter who adapted The Devil Wears Prada from a novel, and it's tempting to stack the two movies beside each other and pronounce Morning Glory a paler imitation. Naive journalism intern is blocked by egotistical magazine editor; keener TV producer is blocked by embittered correspondent. All I have to do is tell you that Harrison Ford is no Meryl Streep and we are out of here.
Tempting, but not entirely fair. Ford is rapidly moving into the grouchy old man demographic, but he really outshines himself as veteran broadcast journalist Mike Pomeroy, with a grumpiness so life-sucking it proves paradoxically riveting. While he does deadpan, Diane Keaton takes the more obvious route as his co-anchor Colleen, all smiles on screen, all snarls off, hamming up her part with aplomb. Meanwhile the winsome McAdams proves a worthy heir of the screwball-comedy queens. Plus the movie does show some welcome wit as it satirizes the idiocies of morning TV - until it starts repeating itself in the second half.
Workaholic morning show producer Becky Fuller figures she's made it to the big time when she is hired to run Daybreak by a network in New York. Except that Daybreak is number-four in the ratings and is co-hosted by a foot fetishist. Becky promptly fires him and cleverly figures out that Pomeroy, recently dismissed from the evening news due to excessive gravitas and now busy duck-shooting in the country, has months to run on his multi-million-dollar contract. She makes him an offer he cannot legally refuse.
But he doesn't play ball, refusing to do the cooking segments or say the word fluffy on air, annoying co-host Colleen. The already appalling ratings plummet and the big guy upstairs, a delightfully distracted Jeff Goldblum, tells Becky the show has only six weeks to live.
What follows is a tale of mutual seduction as an obstructionist Mike and a determined Becky set out to save Daybreak with a coincidental combination of outrageous stunts and good journalism.
Oh, the romantically challenged Becky is also engaged in mutual seduction with the handsome producer of a magazine show (Patrick Wilson), but that's almost a footnote. When she describes having sex with this "smokin' guy" in the presence of an open mike, both the boyfriend himself and director Roger Michell just melt into the background. Michell once made an entire movie of such humiliation when he directed Notting Hill, so he knows there is no need to track it here. That's smart.
And when the boyfriend phones Becky in the middle of her coveted job interview with The Today Show to point out that Mike is on air doing a cooking segment for her and utters the words, "He is not going to ask you twice," you have to acknowledge some clever writing.
On the other hand, when poor Ford has to deliver a work-life balance speech to Becky (and thus save her actual romance) without sounding sentimental, you have to cringe at both writing and direction. Unfortunately, Ford's work becomes less interesting to watch as Mike becomes less grumpy. And when Michell shoots an extended sequence of Becky running in a fluffy dress across Rockefeller Plaza against a soaring soundtrack, you know you are in a movie that is simply marking time until its obvious denouement.
Yes, it's The Devil Wears Prada, redux.
- Directed by Roger Michell
- Written by Aline Brosh McKenna
- Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton
- Classification: PG