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Non-Review Review: Morning Glory

Early in Morning Glory, our plucky female lead (TM) is interviewing for a position at a major morning show. Asked to outline her vision, she states that “no story is too high or too low” for the show to tackle. Unfortunately, the film makes it clear that the emphasis on that last part. Because this is exactly what we need – a movie about how morning shows aren’t dumb enough.

It's a news day...

On one level – on its least offensive level – Morning Glory feels like The Devil Wears Prada, with a newsroom theme (and a bit less humour). It’s got all the same elements – a young idealist landing what should be a dream job, but having to deal with a work colleague from hell. Here, the movie was swapped Meryl Streep for Harrison Ford. Ford plays celebrated journalist Mike Pomeroy (nicknamed “Pomerhoid” because he’s so difficult to work with), who get benched for wanting to cover “real” news, and finds himself recruited to co-anchor a morning show. He clearly doesn’t want to be there, and Ford is so effective at portraying the character’s frustration that one wonders whether he really wants to be on this film. Ford plays the curmudgeon well, and has great chemistry with Diane Keaton (playing his co-anchor).

The rest of the movie does not work so well. And, unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of stuff which falls into the “rest of the movie” bracket. We follow Becky Fuller, who is played ably (if not spectacularly) by Rachel McAdams. Fuller has the worst interview skills I have ever seen in a fictional character. Garth from Wayne’s World handles himself better. It’s not even awkwardly humourous… it’s just bad. Anyway, things in the movie seem to happen not because the characters have any reason to make them happen, but simply because they need to happen for there to be a movie. So, Jerry Barnes (a surprisingly dull Jeff Goldblum) gives Fuller a job she’s clearly not qualified for (and interviewed horribly for), in order to make sure the movie happens.

On her first morning, Fuller fires the current co-anchor (played by the always effective Ty Burrell) because he’s “toxic” for moral on the show. Given his foot fetish and porn habits, I can see why. However, she then hires Pomeroy for the job. When Pomeroy refuses, she strong-arms him – citing his contractual obligations. So, if his predecessor was bad to moral, how is Pomeroy any better? He’s a prima donna talent who thinks the show is beneath him and who refuses to work with others. You get the sense that the original anchor didn’t refuse to say “fluffy” or attend rehearsal. It’s a move which doesn’t make sense in the context of the film, but which we need to work in order for there to be a movie.

The movie openly mocks Pomeroy for his arrogance. He’s a “real” newsman who reported from Bosnia, but wants to do stories on things as boring as tax audits and financial services. He’s portrayed as an old fogey, out of touch. In fact, the recurring point of the movie is that Pomeroy needs to “loosen up” and host the morning show.

Can I a-Ford to make jokes at his expense?

The film seems to hate itself. It really does. It seems awkwardly ashamed of its subject matter, conceding what a sad world that morning television is – as the host makes paper mache or the weather reporter raps. The movie appears to have genuine disdain for the sort of banal stories which pass for “news” on the morning show. Even the characters admit that things need to change.

However, the changes the movie suggests serve to simply lower the bar even further. Diane Keaton in a sumo wrestling suit. The weather man broadcasting live from a roller coaster. Diane Keaton kissing a frog. And the public laps it up. When Fuller discovers that the bitter bickering between the two anchors is driving ratings, she actually encourages it, despite the fact that it’s probably as poisonous to crew morale as a pervy foot fetish. In short, despite the fact the movie laughs at how banal and “pandering” morning television is, it insists on setting the bar even lower.

It’s never really suggested that Pomeroy might be able to raise the standard of the broadcast. The insinuation is that viewers are too dumb to handle genuine and important news. The movie does suggest that Pomeroy can report some news – he hijacks a news crew to report on corruption from the State governor – but even then the broadcast isn’t interested in his investigative journalism. As he accuses the governor of racketeering, Fuller’s ears only perk up as he mentions that there might be “hookers” involved. Because government corruption is only worth reporting if there are hookers.

Don’t get me wrong. Perhaps there’s a defense to be made for this kind of broadcast. Maybe the film could argue that it makes people happy or it grants them a sense of security – that perhaps there’s some mitigating factor which makes the pandering okay. That there’s a reason that people won’t respond to intelligent debates or ideas. We don’t get that. The movie isn’t concerned with explaining that, which is its potential flaw. Instead, it suggests that morning television is dumb… and we should all just go with it.

It’s a bad film, and an offensive one. In fairness, at least it’s smart enough to avoid pushing the romantic subplot to the forefront. Instead, the romance just plays itself out fairly mundanely in the background. It’s not exciting, but at least it doesn’t eat up screen time or force itself to a ridiculously awkward third-act climax. Plus it features Patrick Wilson, so I have no problem with that.

Morning Glory has an impressive cast, but is not half as aggressive as it needs to be. Like its lead, it insists on being inoffensive – which is ironic, because its conclusions and observations on mainstream media make it unavoidably offensive.

See what other Irish reviewers had to say about the film at Cine.ie.

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6 Responses

  1. Wow you took this movie way, way (emphasis on WAY!!! lol) too seriously. In no way is Morning Glory aspiring to making relevant or insightful comments on the poor state of broadcast television. Now for discussion sake, there isn’t even a debate as to what has happened with TV news and investigative journalism in general. People ARE too dumb to handle the type of broadcast Pomeroy advocates for. You and me and others may not be but the average Joe couldn’t care less about serious news unless it is ridiculously sensationalized and dumbed down.

    Sure you can have Pomeroy and company run CNN but ratings would crater because sadly, people would rather watch “American Idol” or “Britain Got Talent”. Heck, more people vote on these stupid shows than show up at Presidential election polls! If you think there is still such thing as “investigative” journalism anymore, you probably haven’t paid too much attention to the news the past few years. See the slow death of printed newspapers and magazines for proof.

    Now, going back to Morning Glory, forget all about the undertones on the media or how it seems to be “offensive” to your possibly misplaced expectations. This is just a feel good sitcom that is interestingly using a romantic comedy structure but places her job as the “boyfriend”. I had a great time, laughed throughout and generally enjoyed this fluff comedy for what it is.

    • You make a lot of good points and you’re perhaps right – I’m reading a lot into that I probably shouldn’t be. It’s unfair that a movie about a live television show immediately draws comparison to Broadcast News and Network. It would be like comparing every single action movie to Die Hard, or every crime movie to The Godfather. I admit that my preconceptions may have shaped my review.

      On the other hand, I think that you might be reading too much into my opinion. Despite what the above may read like, I love trash culture. I dig Tarantino. I read comic books. I don’t consider myself especially cultured. I understand the place of banal and boring television. I watch CSI with my gran. I do these things not because I’m stupid or my gran’s stupid (and I’d disagree that the people are “too dumb” to handle “real” journalism), but because it’s the equivalent of comfort eating – it’s like the warm blanket that lets you know the world isn’t crazy or there aren’t 1,001 things that are going to kill me when I step outside my door. I believe the type of show that Fuller is making certainly has a place in the modern television landscape.

      However, the movie never responds to its own self-criticism in any meaningful way. Pomeroy is an arrogant, self-righteous jack-ass – but he scores some pretty convincing goals against the show’s basic premise, which are never addressed. It is “pandering”, it’s not challenging or informative. But it isn’t meant to be. I got the sense that the “fibre donut” scene was meant to explain this – but it didn’t really do it too clearly. This sort of show has a place and a function, and it does brighten up people’s days – but the movie doesn’t show us any of that. The only person who we see outside the show framework attacks Pomeroy and can’t even bother to remember his name. Give us letters from unemployed people watching the show and loving that it isn’t the usual doom and gloom; have Pomeroy’s family ring him up and say his grandson watches it before going to school; show us what it gives its audience that makes it okay to be all those things that Pomeroy says it is.

      Sorry, that may have sounded like a rant, but you make some good points and I’m trying to reiterate my own thoughts on the matter. I don’t think the majority of people who watch American Idol are as stupid as television thinks they are – I just think they watch it because that’s what they like. As a grown man who reads “picture books” about men in tights thrashing each other, who am I to judge? I just don’t think the film made any effort to defend itself from its own criticism.

      EDIT: Wow, that is a rant, now that I see it printed like that.

      • Just a quick clarification, the woman who comes up to Mike Pomeroy for an autograph or something isn’t actually insulting him (at least not intentionally), she confused him with Dan Rather, a long-time evening news anchor for CBS.

        I understand what you mean when you say you want to see the impact of Daybreak on people but ultimately, this is a film about Becky and her relationship with her job. It would be like asking a movie like “(500) Days of Summer” to make an insightful commentary on the architectural layout of the city of Los Angeles instead of focusing on the central romance 😉

      • Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Just not too keen on it. I think I might be just a tad oversensitive to certain elements of certain films (don’t get me started on Avatar). 😉

  2. Am with castor on this one. Its not a great film and its message, if it has one, is mixed at best but the performances are a lot of fun. Patrick Wilson, up there with Ruffalo as my fave actor right now

    • Maybe I took it far too seriously… but I still maintain that the movie was fairly scathing towards the state of morning television and then asked us to cheer for a lead character who made those problems more apparent.

      But, yeah, I love Wilson.

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