Harrison Ford

Morning Glory

morning glory

Rachel McAdams most recently played Sasha Pfeiffer, a Boston Globe reporter who helped expose the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of sexual abuse, in the Oscar winning film Spotlight. A meticulous, understated study on journalism, the much lauded movie sparked conversations about the value of newspapers, the role of investigative reporting, and the handling of abuse within the Church.

Morning Glory, McAdams’s earlier outing in the same field, doesn’t do that. Instead, it comments on impossible work relationships rather than exploring an existential crisis in the profession. It is, however, a sound comedy about making news, a network morning show in this case. The movie is an enjoyable diversion, a clean display of acting and wit that goes down effortlessly. But considering the enthusiastic commitment of the cast and creatives, which includes producer J. J. Abrams, a gentle critique – of network and cable news, the influence of new media on traditional forms – would have given the film more weight.

It is this dynamic between entertainment and substance that causes one of the major conflicts on the set of the fictional DayBreak. When new executive producer Becky (McAdams) fires an anchor (Ty Burrell in a slippery and memorable cameo), she replaces him with Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a legendary journalist who, by his own calculation, has “won every broadcast award on the face of the planet.” He is a man who takes his drinks with Morley Safer and Bob Schieffer, someone who, as he humorously recounts, was shot in the arm in Bosnia and nursed Mother Teresa during a cholera epidemic. This is a real journalist reporting real news.

The very thought of ceding airtime to fluff pieces on Mario Batali’s meatballs and the history of weather vanes offends Mike’s basic ideas of journalistic purity, and he only accepts the job because of contractual obligations. Ford is a grizzled block of potential energy as the acerbic character. Mike stomps his way onto the set of DayBreak, silent and superior, with the fixed snarl of a reporter who approaches his new job in the same way he’d confront an authoritarian dictator about crimes against humanity. The actor doesn’t play it all straight though. He has some of the film’s best lines, which are brimming with pretention, and slips in the briefest hints of satire.

Ford’s co-star, Diane Keaton, meanwhile, is just as fun to watch because she doesn’t hold back. Despite her exasperation, Colleen Peck, DayBreak’s standard bearer, is a glass half-full kind of woman. She injects a wry sense of humor into the office but is positive enough to embrace the mediocre show and wish for its success. Colleen makes the most of what she’s offered, which might be Keaton’s approach, gamely kissing frogs and sharing the ring with sumo wrestlers to boost ratings.

The show’s last place standing among morning programs sets up the film’s other big conflict. Threatened with cancellation, Becky tries whatever harebrained ideas she can to increase viewership. The incessant drive for higher audience numbers, at the expense of critical reporting, is relatable especially in this surreal election season. McAdams shines as the beleaguered Becky, who not only needs to wrangle a petulant Mike but who must also deflect charges against her youth and tenacity. The actress does funny well, and though she isn’t bullish on comedy, she makes the most of small moments, awkwardly stumbling into the office of her love interest and colleague (a sinfully handsome Patrick Wilson) or trying to broker peace between her warring anchors. It’s easy to imagine Becky as the perky shot in the arm that lifts the whole team, but McAdams gives her more depth, and strength, than that. Her character is endearing and optimistic but not naïve, and her struggle to find an identity outside of work is handled soberly.

Released: 2010
Prod: J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Dir: Roger Michell
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, John Pankow, Jeff Goldblum, Matt Malloy, Ty Burrell
Time: 107 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

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Hanover Street

hanover street

Hanover Street wouldn’t even make it to the tiebreaker rounds of your local pub quiz, but if it’s notable for anything, it’s that Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer once co-starred in a Lifetime-worthy war romance. In some respects, you really can’t ask for more. Two bonafide leading men, a love affair in wartime London, bombers, Nazis, and spies, oh my.

But the film is elbow-deep in clichés, which is fantastic if you want to satisfy your schmaltz quota. Ford, still coasting on his Star Wars glory when this was released in 1979, recycles his Han Solo act and brings the character back to the future as David Halloran, a hot shot American pilot who’s ace at his job, loves the ladies, and doesn’t give a damn. He meets Margaret Sellinger (Lesley-Anne Down) in the most hackneyed way possible. They chase down a London double-decker, drink some tea, and get blitzed. Faced with their own mortality, they realize they are decidedly in love.

It’s not just the nasty business of war that’s getting in the way of their romance though. Margaret is married to intelligence officer Paul (Christopher Plummer), who by his own admission is a bore of a man. Though respected and clearly good looking, he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be someone in life. Presumably training undercover agents and fluency in French and German isn’t good enough. And we know Margaret feels much the same because she moans, in the most delicate, glass-voiced 1940s sort of way, to David about her insufferably dull husband.

There solutions to these predicaments, but the best way, the Hanover Street way, is to fix David and Paul up on a secret spy mission deep in enemy territory. Only by imperiling their lives will Paul be able to prove himself to be a real man of action, David know how to handle his lady love, and Margaret decide whom she wants to drink tea with for the rest of her life.

Watching this film can be like wading through the London fog though. The melancholic score that runs thick through the movie doesn’t sweep you so much as it pushes you into the abundant melodrama, leaving you to grasp for something that isn’t sticky with sentiment. That’s certainly not Down’s performance. Every glance is a pained look of longing. Of the male leads, Plummer has the better part, and while his dialogue could use a lift, the actor puts his talents to use as a desk man going undercover, as a Nazi no less, for the first time. Ford gets the steamier role, but besides a few tumbles in bed, all that’s required of him is true grit. He adopts a pilot’s swagger and delivers all of his lines with an unflappable rat-a-tat-tat monotone of a gunner. This unharmonious pairing of Ford and Plummer is probably the oddest thing about the film, so much so that I thought I’d fallen into some cinematic dream state every time the two shared the screen. Luckily, I woke up and chose another movie.

Released: 1979
Prod: Paul N. Lazarus III
Dir: Peter Hyams
Writer: Peter Hyams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Christopher Plummer, Lesley-Anne Down, Alec McCowen, Michael Sacks, Richard Masur, Patsy Kensit
Time: 109 min
Lang: English, some German and French
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2015