Sunday, December 5, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Morning Glory

MORNING GLORY-- 3 STARS

http://www.morningglorymovie.com/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1126618/

The workplace is a natural melting pot of all different sorts of people.  While everyone there, from top to bottom, is working toward a common goal (at least you hope they are), each person present has a different motivation, pay level, skill set, responsibilities, goals, likes, and dislikes.  The boss or supervisor in place has the unenviable task of molding and motivating those unmatched parts to work together, coexist, and get results.  Those results could take place in a fine restaurant or McDonald's, retail or Fortune 500, an office or The Office.  It can happen in a teacher's lounge, a locker room, a firehouse, a farm, or a prison and it wouldn't matter.  The mixes and blends of different people in a workplace create a wild balance tuned to the unpredictable chance of brilliance and the chance of disaster. 

The morning television show workplace is the melting pot for brilliance and disaster that we are privy to observing in the new film, Morning Glory.  Just like the riff on workplaces created by the successful TV series The Office, we know that every workplace has their stereotypes that go into that melting pot.  Here at Morning Glory's fictional IBS television station, it's no different.

You have the "fast-riser/workaholic" stereotype, Becky (Rachel McAdams of The Notebook), who becomes the new boss of a down-and-out group of underachievers.  That rag-tag crew includes the loyal "right-hand man/family man" assistant, the "airhead" who slept her way into a job, the "nerd" weatherman, and, of course, on top are the "talent/diva" hosts, Colleen (a part Diane Keaton couldn't be more perfect to play) and Paul (Ty Burrell of TV's Modern Family).  IBS's morning show "Daybreak" is last in ratings to the likes of "The Today Show."  Looking on with vested interest is Becky's boss, Jerry (Jeff Goldblum), "the suit" stereotype who cares only about the bottom line and higher ratings and also the "heartthrob" love interest co-worker, Adam (played by Patrick Wilson, in a part Matthew McConaughey would immediately overact), who's "Captain Easy-going" and may or may not be into our heroine Becky.

New executive producer Becky has to change the culture and turn the ratings around.  Her gamble to make that happen is firing Paul and bringing in "the icon/veteran of integrity," Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), the multi-award-winning journalist who is finishing out a lucrative contract in semi-retirement after being bumped from the evening news by someone younger.  However, Mike is a "professional" who cares only about the news and feels he's lowering himself to this kind of job.  He plays the "curmudgeon" stereotype who can't stand Colleen, even to the point of arguing who's going to get the final goodbye sign-off.  Mike won't open up or stoop to the banter, stunts, and gags of morning television.  To say he's difficult to work with is an understatement.  If workaholic Becky can't make this team work, she's fired and the 40-plus year old "Daybreak" is canceled and replaced by morning infomercials and reruns.

There are a lot of air-quotes in that description of Morning Glory because the stereotypes shown in the film, just as in any real life workplace, are true.  The magic of Morning Glory comes in how those stereotypes are broken down and redefined.  The characters, while initially shaped as stereotypes, are richer and have a lot more going on underneath, with a great deal of change and growth.  In different or more dramatic hands, this movie could have ended up as a button pusher along the lines of the classic Network, but this movie sticks with the comedy and stays light.  Morning Glory works because of it's all about the quirks and characters instead of the issues that really make up the news.

Even though this movie is from the same screenwriter as The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory plays more relatable, believable, and approachable.  The large world of gaudy fashion is too high-end and foreign to most audiences, whereas everyone has watched a little morning television in their time.  Prada was really all about Meryl Streep's big bad boss and pretended to be about the Anne Hathaway character.  Here, Morning Glory is all about Becky.  Becky has more drive, ambition, balls, and control than Hathaway's character.  Sure, Harrison Ford's Mike fulfills the colossal "stick-in-the-mud" (see, the stereotype air quotes keep coming), but the writers were wise not to try and have him top a character like Streep's.  Because of that, his growth as a character becomes more genuine and realistic.  It was a pleasure to see Harrison Ford back in comedy.  He's been sorely missed in the genre.

The real spotlight here is Rachel McAdams.  She plays such a good, manic workaholic with every possible nuance, twitch, and motivation.  She's not just a pretty face, put in business separates, sporting pretend messed-up hair for a shot or two.  McAdams sells the guise of her character with amazing physical acting.  While Diane Keaton and Ford have bigger resumes, this is her movie and the story is all hers.  It's not to the level of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but you may look back at Morning Glory as the film that made her a grown-up, established leading lady capable of carrying her own weight.  She's come a long way since the teenybopper parts in Mean Girls, The Hot Chick, and even The Notebook. 

LESSON #!: THE IDIOSYNCRASIES OF THE WORKPLACE-- As discussed before, Morning Glory does a great job of taking the typical workplace stereotypes and polishing them up with new wrinkles.  Nevertheless, most of us have jobs that require us to work amongst a team of unpolished stereotypes and under a tier of some kind of belittling management.  How we fit in and play our role is important, whether we are the worker or the boss.  Being successful takes both levels working together. 

LESSON #2: DON'T BE A WORKAHOLIC-- Sure, hard work is necessary to do a good job, but it's not everything.  Harrison Ford has a great speech in the movie as the guy towards the end of his career talking to McAdams near the beginning of hers.  To paraphrase, he says that if you do nothing but work with your life, you end up with just that when work is gone.  People who work too much, go at it alone, and spend their free time on more work do live lonely, stressful, and sometimes unfulfilled lives.  Stop, slow down, recharge your batteries, enjoy your company, and smell the roses as you go.

LESSON #3: DOING A JOB YOU LOVE VERSUS DOING A JOB FOR THE MONEY-- Yes, careers and jobs are a means of living and enable comfort in our lives, but money doesn't buy happiness.  Sometimes the lesser paying jobs are the more rewarding ones.  One could be presented with the chance to do the same job for better pay, but you can't replace the satisfaction that comes from being a part of making and building up a success.  Sticking with something you've started and not taking the money of a better position is real dedication and loyalty (Tell this lesson to college football coaches, while you're at it).