As far as satirical films on the news media go, nothing beats Sidney Lumet’s brilliant Network, a movie about sensationalism and how we as a society eat it up. In that picture, a man named Howard Beale announced his plan to kill himself on the air and interest in the television station shot up. As he stood in front of a giant audience, mentally ill from the emotional torment of losing his job, nobody stepped in to stop him. The popularity meant ratings and nobody batted an eye at what they were doing to the man. While not as in-depth, interesting or clever as that film, Morning Glory explores similar sensationalist territory while upping the comedy and giving us a few fantastic performances.
Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) lives in New Jersey. She’s a producer at a small television station on the local morning news show. Things seem to be going fine until she is suddenly fired, finding herself frantically searching for a new job. After many e-mails and phone calls, she finally lands a gig at IBS as executive producer of their daily morning news show, Day Break. Their ratings are suffering and her new boss hopes she will be able to raise them. So she sets out to do just that, though she’ll have to get through her testy anchors Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) first.
Morning Glory is a good movie; there’s no questioning that. It’s funny, it’s sweet and it has something to say, featuring a commentary on public consumption and how we are more drawn to fluff than news that matters. But it could have been so much more. There’s a great movie hidden here somewhere, but it loses itself at certain points along the proverbial line.
Where the movie succeeds is in Becky. She’s a strong, smart, independent woman who is determined to earn the respect of those around her and bring the ratings of Day Break out of the gutter. It’s a character we don’t see much in movies these days. In a cinematic world where women are normally the helpless ones in peril or treated like an object, it was a breath of fresh air. However, it seems there can’t be a woman onscreen who inhabits these personality traits because she is quickly given a sexual interest and the film falls into the same romantic comedy routine as so many others.
But luckily, it never gets too weighed down by it. Every time it looks like the writers are going to force Becky to succumb to the pressures of society, it quickly switches gears and shows just how tough she can be. Her first order of duty when she arrives at the studio is to fire one of her anchors for the rude, obnoxious oaf he is and begin to pursue a new one in the form of Mike, a seasoned anchor veteran who touts his numerous awards and refuses to do any piece on something he doesn’t consider newsworthy, which is pretty much anything.
He’s a pompous, sarcastic man with a thick shell that Becky has to break and, even though it’s as predictable as the presence of beer at a sporting event, it’s a testament to her character that she can and does. Although she finds love, she doesn’t abandon her career for it. I suspect powerful women all across the country will find something to like in her and it doesn’t hurt that the radiant Ms. McAdams is in those shoes.
There’s a great supporting cast in Morning Glory that includes Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and a hilarious cameo from 50 Cent, but it’s the script that really shines. It’s rare to find a movie this funny, intelligent and timely that also makes a valid point about the news industry. It may be a more comedic, less important version of Network, but Morning Glory is entertaining all the same.
Morning Glory receives 3.5/5