I laughed a lot at a screening of the television-news comedy Morning Glory, but when I thought about the film later, it didn't hold up. Part of the problem is the lack of nuance Harrison Ford brings to his performance as the humiliated network anchor Mike Pomeroy, the kind of self-satisfied journalist who intones platitudes like, "News is a sacred temple." Ford is uniformly sour and unpleasant in his scenes, and that brings the film down. He's also not very convincing as a contemporary TV newsman. On the air, he speaks too softly and haltingly, and he employs the "this reporter" locution, which Edward R. Murrow used in the 1950s, and which you don't hear these days.
Thanks to some clever analysis of his contract, Ford is forced to cohost a Today-style morning news show by its new producer, Becky (Rachel McAdams). McAdams has a lot to do with why I enjoyed this movie, despite its flaws. She's funny and attractive and quick, and she delivers some of the film's sharp zingers, as when she says at a job interview, "I know more than anyone whose dad paid for them to smoke bongs and talk semiotics at Harvard."
But McAdams' performance is unbalanced. She's ditzy in some scenes, cold-blooded in others, and the changes don't seem motivated by anything other than the needs of the plot. She's also saddled with a tacked-on romantic thread, a dalliance with a network employee played by Patrick Wilson. He's appealing but underutilized. Also underutilized, not for the first time, is Diane Keaton as the show's weary cohost. Even so, Keaton shines. I like how she is bitter and angry until the very nanosecond the broadcast goes live; then she snaps into morning-show cheeriness.
Morning Glory was directed by Roger Michell, who demonstrated a knack for charming comedy with Notting Hill. But Morning Glory's charm eventually becomes trying. There are too many cutesy montages: house-moving montage, paperwork-studying montage, the-ratings-are-soaring montage, which-bar-is-my-drunk-cohost-in montage.
A larger failing is that the film is curiously out of date. Among TV news outlets these days, opinionated cable channels are generating all the buzz. But they don't exist in the Morning Glory universe. Neither does the Internet, at least as a competitive news source.
Also: The film is about the conflict between proponents of hard and soft news in network journalism, but it seems to me this conflict simmered down a long time ago -- certainly by the time Today became the money machine it is. Indeed, hard-news purists who extolled Murrow were losing the battle even before the Murrow era ended. Ever seen those awkward celebrity interviews he did on Person to Person?