Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morning Glory vs. Eat Pray Love--Round 1

The fiancee had wanted to see "Eat Pray Love" and "Morning Glory" for a while. Due to clever excuses (me) and busy schedules (both), we did not see either during their initial runs in the multiplex.

Then the gig was up: The DVDs came out.

Seriously, I wanted to see both. "Eat Pray Love" features a really solid cast--this sunny, woman-triumphs-life material is in Julia Roberts's wheelhouse--and "Morning Glory" received generally positive reviews from respectable folks (including Ebert).

Besides, after sitting through stuff for work, the Professor deserved to see something that she wanted. Hell, she voluntarily sat through "Kaboom," which should have earned her some kind of humanitarian medal.

How did I fare? Just fine. My testosterone plummeted to dangerously low levels, but after a day of bed rest and nothing but dry toast and hot tea, I am back to normal. Well, normal for me.

Here's what I remember. (Note: My take on "Eat Pray Love" will run in a day or two.)

"Morning Glory," allegedly a romantic comedy, stars Rachel McAdams as a young, scrappy producer who is hired to resurrect the sagging morning news show "Daybreak." In order to get things back on track, Becky hires venerable sourpuss newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to give ratings a boost. But can he coexist with his diva co-anchor (Diane Keaton). Can the prickly Mike respect his much younger superior? Can Becky find personal success amidst the professional tumult?

These questions are easily answered, and worse, we never care about the answers. "Morning Glory" is basically female empowerment porn with McAdams vacillating between confident and frazzled--looking fabulous the whole way--before she finds her working gal rhythm. Aline Brosh McKenna who wrote "The Devil Wears Prada," basically just sets up a series of obvious obstacles and empty characters (the disapproving mom, the unforgiving boss)so Becky's triumphs never connect. It's like watching a really long but passable sitcom.

Other things that bugged me:

1.) Diane Keaton is absolutely wasted here. She's initially slated as a foil for Ford, but then the script veers toward his relationship with McAdams. Keaton gets shuffled off into no-(wo)man's land, making you wonder why she's even in this effort in the first place.

2.) Patrick Wilson has no charisma. He's a good-looking guy who looks like he can do a lot of pull-ups, but if you replaced him with Cole Hauser or Bradley Cooper or Jason Marsden would anyone care?

3.) Speaking of Wilson, could there have been a little more mystery and heat behind his courtship with McAdams? I've sat through zoning board meetings that were more spontaneous.

4.) Oh, and speaking of McAdams, she's given a positively thankless role, a hybrid of every spunky single gal role since "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" wrapped up in the overbearing enthusiasm of a college freshman who emerges from a semester of English Lit 101 and two bong hits knowing all the answers. Basically she's Anne Hathaway's character in "The Devil Wears Prada" with a worse wardrobe and a lower IQ.

3.) A charmless work environment: I really enjoyed "The Devil Wears Prada" because Brosh McKenna went out of her way to create a chaotic workplace featuring vivid, memorable characters--e.g., Stanley Tucci's art director, Emily Blunt's bitchy receptionist--that actually made the offices of "Runway" feel like a dysfunctional home. We understood why Anne Hathaway couldn't leave.

That vibe doesn't exist in "Morning Glory," which features an array of humdrum goofballs and oblivious prima donnas. We don't feel that Becky considers the crew her family, which the movie has the gumption to suddenly demand with its obnoxious, isn't-life-funny? ending.

For "Morning Glory" to work we need to buy that Becky needs the show as much as it needs her. It's too submerged in gimmick and gloss to present us with such a bracing concept, so a nation of 16-year-old girls will think that with a little elbow grease and pluck the working life explodes into colors. "Morning Glory" desperately needs more shades of grey--for everyone's sake.


Barry said...

Why does Harrison Ford always seem drunk? Whether it's in his on-screen performances or in interviews, something always seems a little bit off.

Pete Croatto said...

Well, Barry, if it worked for Peter O'Toole and Lee Marvin...