Thus far known mostly for being a dramatic actress, and a hell of a one at that, Rachel McAdams proves she really can do it all in her latest, “Morning Glory”, from Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter of “The Devil Wears Prada” and Roger Michell, the director of “Notting Hill”. A zingy, fast-paced romantic comedy that has McAdams doing some sustained physical comedy one wouldn’t have predicted she had in her, it’s a predictable but nonetheless thoroughly entertaining and satisfying ride, anchored through every frame by McAdams’ winning charm and revelatory performance.
It is McKenna’s influence that is the most present in this “‘Devil Wears Prada’ set in the morning news world” story about Becky Fuller (McAdams), a young and ambitious news producer who hasn’t quite reached her childhood dream of working on “The Today Show”, whose own mother thinks it’s time for her to give up after being fired from a local New Jersey morning show. Instead of heeding her mother’s advice, the movie charges Becky forward with her bangs in disarray and never dropping her nearly manic perkiness, quickly strong-arming her way into an Executive Producer position on “Daybreak”, the 4th highest rated national morning talk show led by Colleen Peck (played with grace and elegance even under silly circumstances by Diane Keaton), a former Ms. Arizona, who has settled in quite comfortably into being no. 4 and going through co-anchors and EPs like laundry. But Becky is determined to turn the show around, and from her first staff meeting where Colleen’s hapless pervert of a co-anchor (Ty Burrell) is promptly terminated, the people around her realize quickly this girl is different.
She further proves her ambition by going after veteran serious news reporter Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford, in a role that doesn’t seem too far from his real red carpet persona) to fill the vacant co-anchor position. Pomeroy has way too much self respect – not to mention 16 Emmys and a Pulitzer – to ever lower himself to such an embarrassment, but a tricky contract stipulation lands him right in the center of the fledgling morning show. There is also, of course, a guy, the dreamy producer Adam Bennett (played by the equally dreamy Patrick Wilson), who initiates a quick and believable romance with Becky without all the contrived trappings a lesser romantic comedy would have taken 2 hours to sift through.
The actors breeze through their story arcs with confidence and wit, affording each of Becky’s relationships with an easy chemistry that never feels forced. McAdams is one of those rare beautiful actresses who the audience can still relate to and loves to root for like one would for a best friend, and “Morning Glory” showcases all of her talents perfectly, even her on the dot comedic timing, which she has never gotten to show off before. McAdams races, oftentimes literally, through scene after scene, infusing Becky with all sorts of awkward and nervous ticks, never losing her connection with the audience. She’s radiant and beautiful, but believably frazzled at the same time. While Becky and Adam make a satisfying romantic couple, it is the real bond that develops between the “I don’t give up. Ever.” Becky and the cynical Pomeroy that is the most enjoyable to watch. As expected, the old and the young have much to learn from each other, but McAdams and Ford infuse their sparring-turns-into-platonic-love journey with big laughs and real touching moments.
In the end, you won’t be surprised by much in “Morning Glory”‘s plot, but the ride is thoroughly entertaining, with real laugh out loud moments particularly clustered around the halfway point and emotional payoff by the end. The entire ensemble cast is terrific but the show belongs to Rachel McAdams, whose charm and comedic talents are on full display in nearly every frame, and this should bring her to the forefront of people’s minds once again as one of the best, most versatile and most likeable actresses working today.