I re-watched Morning Glory last night; I love that movie, and I’m trying to understand why it never got any traction in theaters in spite of a sterling cast and a solid concept. My conclusion: Snotty critics who disapprove of the genre (lightweight comedy) and truly bad marketing. I’m annoyed.
The plot is about a young producer and a old news icon butting heads over what journalism needs to be in the twenty-first century. That’s a great concept, especially when you have Rachel McAdams as the young producer and Harrison Ford as the grumpy news superstar. Throw in Patrick Wilson as McAdams’ love interest and Diane Keaton as Ford’s nemesis and a solidly funny script, and this should have been a comedy hit.
Instead it hit bad reviews (56% aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes) and poorly set-up expectations. A trailer that summarized the entire movie probably wasn’t a help, either. In the end, I think it was torpedoed for being what it was: a comedy about a serious subject that stayed fluffy as a bunny. It wasn’t supposed to be Broadcast News, folks. It was supposed to be fun.
I think the same thing happens to romance novels. If you are faithful to the genre, you get the equivalent of “another one of those.” If you try something different, you get, “Well, it’s not Shakespeare” or “this transcends the genre.” Well, it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare. Shakespeare would not sell well today: his language is brilliant if you happen to like that kind of language (I do), but his stories . . . try selling Hero marrying Claudio after he slut shames her or Katherine bending her knee as a dutiful wife to Petruchio. Hell, try selling Henry VIII today. Even the Elizabethans hated that one. As far as transcending the genre, no. It is the genre. If you keep categorizing stories you like as not that genre, you’re being an elitist jerk. Stop that.
Where was I?
Right, critical gatekeeping. So romance and comedy are lower tiers of respectable storytelling. Given that, it’s no wonder Morning Glory got pummeled; it’s women’s fiction and comedy with a romantic subplot. They probably had to dig down another layer to categorize that low enough.
And then there’s expectation from the poster (book cover). The most prevalent poster (see above) looks like a romcom. Nope. Here are two posters that accurately reflect the movie. I’d never seen them until I went looking for the poster I knew.
So snotty reviews (Roger Ebert and Peter Travers loved it, though) and bad marketing shot a good movie in the knee because critics are jerks and marketing departments want to sell the movie/book, not the story, which leads to viewer/reader crankiness.
So what do I like about it?
The Protagonist: Becky Fuller is a very young producer on a New Jersey morning show who ends up at the helm of the fourth rated (out of four) morning shows in New York. I am not generally a Rachel McAdams fan but she is pitch perfect as the manic Becky, wild-eyed determined to put Daybreak on top no matter what she or her anchors have to do. She was kind of desperately cute in the beginning and it’s a pleasant beginning, so I was putting up with her boundless enthusiasm until she sat down at her first meeting with the Daybreak staff. As a dozen people talk to her at once, clearly not respecting her, she looks wide-eyed at all of them, and the sense is that she’s completely overwhelmed. Then they stop talking and she starts, it’s one of the best competence porn scenes ever, books, movies, TV, I don’t care, that scene is a stunner. And I just freaking loved Becky from then on.
The Antagonist :Mike Pomeroy is a venerated newsman–think Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw–who is forced onto Daybreak because Becky can read contracts. He does not want to be there and makes himself as objectionable as possible. He is also Harrison Ford, having a wonderful time being a complete bastard.
The Plot: In order to keep Daybreak on the air, Becky must boost its ratings while working with two anchors–Pomeroy and Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton)–who loathe each other. While there’s not much suspense as to whether Becky will get those ratings up–this is a HAPPY movie, people–the hell she has to go through, not to mention the hell she puts other people through, is extremely entertaining. The best part: Ford and Keaton having a wonderful time being awful to each other.
The Romance Subplot: Okay, this is pretty standard stuff, but McAdams and Patrick Wilson sell it anyway. And it’s integral to the plot because for one horrible year, Wilson’s Adam Bennett was a produce for Pomeroy, who called him Senor Dipshit everyday. He becomes Becky’s guide to working with Pomeroy and the other side of the work/play equation which for Becky up till now has been work/work. Also, it’s fun.
And that’s really the summary here: This is a fun, feel-good movie with a great cast and some truly laugh-out-loud moments. Plus Roger Ebert and Peter Travers loved it, and those are the reviewers I pay attention to (RIP Ebert).
Rent or buy on Amazon, watch on YouTube, get the DVD from Netflix. Ignore the critics and the marketing. Have a good time, damn it.