Fluff is the story
In “Morning Glory,’’ Harrison Ford plays Mike Pomeroy, a cantankerous TV news legend who can’t bring himself to say the word “fluffy’’ on air. It’s a losing battle: “Morning Glory’’ is itself a work of extreme fluff, a lightweight bauble about the morning-show wars that floats on the updrafts of character comedy until it charmingly self-destructs in the final act.
Rachel McAdams has the lead role of Becky Fuller, New Jersey girl and workaholic news producer who gets her big shot when she is hired to executive produce the IBS network’s “Daybreak’’ out of the ratings basement. Becky can turn the world on with her smile; she can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile. That’s right, she’s Mary Tyler Moore, down to the jig in the streets.
McAdams is actually quite endearing as she tailors a Katherine Heigl role to her smarter specifications, but anyone who knows anything about the media business also knows that endearing is served for lunch and that those who succeed have to be powerful and/or pirates. Especially the women. So, fine, it’s a fairy tale, complete with a prince (Patrick Wilson as a swoony producer for a magazine show) whom the movie beds down with Becky early on so we know it’s not really about winning the guy.
The “Daybreak’’ the heroine inherits is a squabbling family headed by Colleen (Diane Keaton), a onetime beauty queen turned acid-tongued anchorwoman. In desperation, Becky blackmails the network’s idled news god, Pomeroy, into serving as Colleen’s cohost. The grizzled veteran of Bosnia, the reporter who pulled Colin Powell out of a burning jeep, is now forced to introduce segments on Easter eggs and reincarnation, and his horror is palpable. Keaton is fun but Ford gives a character performance that is positively inspired, his voice sinking to a sub-Clint Eastwood growl as the moral disgust rolls off Pomeroy in waves. In the star’s hands, a throwaway line like “And when we come back, we’ll tell you new ways to cope with . . . menopause’’ becomes a marvelous exercise in comic self-loathing.
In another scene, the newsman accuses Becky of “wanting me to pander so you can sell erectile dysfunction medication,’’ hinting at a struggle between morning-show style and hard news substance that “Morning Glory’’ doesn’t really intend to engage. “Broadcast News’’ this ain’t, and forget about “Network’’ — by the final scenes, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and director Roger Michell appear to have come down squarely on the side of pandering. No wonder Ford looks so grumpy.
Still, the movie’s a pleasant and occasionally hilarious ride, even if there’s a bait-and-switch at its core. The central relationship is between Becky and Pomeroy, but because the actors playing them are too far apart in years, the filmmakers have to introduce Wilson’s character as a love interest. He’s a beard, pure and simple, and “Morning Glory’’ is in fact structured as a professional romance between the naive TV producer and the aging news lion. The movie cannily sells a multigenerational cast, but cross-generational amour remains the love that dare not speak its name.