White Tank Top: Morning Glory

You might not know it from the general direction of my CAB posts, but my favorite film genre is the romantic comedy. It’s just that there aren’t so many good ones to see these days. There was a great one in Seattle just last week called The Philadelphia Story – it’s only 70 years old.

In a fever for rom-com satisfaction I sometimes do strange things, like going to the Guild on Saturday night to see Roger Michell’s Morning Glory.

Rachel McAdams (so good-natured that you know she must really be Canadian) is Becky, a 28-year-old television producer charged with upping the ratings at the moribund network morning show Daybreak. That mostly entails wrangling the divergent wishes of her co-anchors: the hard news Mike Pomeroy (a slicked-back Harrison Ford) and the fluffy Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton whose every hair is carefully placed).

John Pankow and Jeff Goldblum are well-deployed in supporting roles, the former always encouraging (remember him on Mad About You?) and the  latter less so, dispensing managerial gems like “why don’t you go to PBS and see if you can kill Sesame Street?” 

I find my enjoyment of the genre really comes down to whether I buy the lead actress—luckily McAdams has an over-caffeinated, Reese Witherspoonian irresistibility about her. She’s so obsessed with being on time that even her coffee cup has a clock on it. Lest you think she’s not artistic, she once lunches by a statue of Gertrude Stein and mentions Kerouac in passing.

While there is not a lot of insight into her inner state, Becky has an array of physical tics that capture her frantic personality. She speaks (loudly) with her hands, bangs her head against walls in times of stress and walks backwards in front of people to get keep their attention. And, at the risk of sounding like a total perv, I’m obligated to note the camera’s fixation on how her butt looks in business suits (seriously—I should have kept an official tally but there’s 25+ shots of it).

Because it’s not a contemporary rom-com without a bland male lead, we have Patrick Wilson (presumably because Josh Duhamel’s vacant stare was unavailable), a fellow television producer who Mike Pomeroy calls Señor Dipshit. That name is the most interesting thing about him, so I’ll keep using it.

My favorite gag in the film is round table discussion about the silliness of booking a low tier romantic leading man (Patrick Dempsey) for Daybreak, which is a bold piece of commentary from a film starring Patrick Wilson. There’s a scene two-thirds into the movie where it appears that Señor Dipshit and Becky break up, but we were never really sure they were together in the first place.

The real workplace story is the pseudo-father/daughter relationship between Becky and Mike. Like all anchormen, he enjoys his scotchy-scotch and Ford excels at purring enunciations while throwing back drinks with buddies like Morley Safer. He’s initially put off by Becky’s “repellant moxie” but she proves competent enough to win him over. In that sense, Morning Glory is more reminiscent of In Good Company, another charming film that focuses more on successful workplace relationships than romantic ones.

Even if Hollywood can’t produce a romantic comedy half as good as the ones they cranked out in the 30’s and 40’s, at least movies today aren’t forced into conventional endings. The core message of Morning Glory is a fairly empowering. Sure, Mike gives Becky the big speech on how being a workaholic with one eye on the television and the other on the BlackBerry will ruin all your affairs. But Becky’s still getting up before dawn at the end of film, Señor Dipshit’s wished be damned.

As for the future of romantic comedy, there’s always Reese Witherspoon’s return next month in James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know