Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Rachel McAdams makes her move into the big leagues

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Rating: PG-13  Grade: B

McAdams and Ford in 'Morning Glory'

Rachel McAdams has been on the cusp of distinction in Hollywood, a fast-tracking It-Girl with that rare combination of charm and chops, enough to have oddly enough relegated her thus far to limbo. Those in the know took note of her turn as the prototypical popular drama queen in Mean Girls back in 2004.  That same year, she and Ryan Gosling (a dramatic indie stalwart) shared the real secrets of their talents in the mainstream adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel The Notebook. She went back to comedy in Wedding Crashers, slipped into a Jodie Foster-styled thriller (Red Eye), and bared her rougher edges in the holiday dramedy The Family Stone. She has held her own opposite Russell Crowe (State of Play), Eric Bana (The Time Traveler’s Wife), and Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), so what else is left for her to do?

Well, wake up, Hollywood, because she’s done all she can and then some and she does it again in Morning Glory, her new film from director Roger Michell (Venus). She’s a lot like her character, Becky, a hard-working television producer who moves to New York to take over a practically dead morning show on a cable network with incompatible anchors (Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford), an executive (Jeff Goldblum) above her looking only to transition from morning programming to syndicated crap, and a budding relationship with a colleague (Patrick Wilson) in another department at the network that can’t seem to get off the ground. Becky can’t stop trying, she won’t stop giving it her all, and more importantly the audience will find itself doing everything it can to support her every step along the way and that is largely a testament to the full-on focus that McAdams invests in the character. We watch her fire dead weight during her first minutes on the job, cajole disparate personalities, scream and shout, flash that mega-watt smile of hers, and simply shine brighter than the collective lights on set.

And in a world where all performances are viewed equally, she would be a highly touted possible Best Actress nominee for her effort here. Morning Glory is her show, from start to finish, which says quite a bit since there’s no lack of talent on display.  Ford, in particular, seems to relish the opportunity to not have to take the commanding lead, which frees him up to act and have some fun in the process. But, McAdams suffers because we have come to expect the Best Actress nominees to cut a vein and bleed it onscreen to earn the coveted praise and glory. We can’t or won’t acknowledge a character like Becky (and a performance like this), who doesn’t struggle mightily against impossible odds and even higher drama.

Morning Glory is a smooth running dramedy, a warm familiar story that audiences will recognize exactly for what it is and appreciate all the same, likely because it isn’t quite so heavy. And because it will be another one of those films with a performance from McAdams that will be featured in some list down the line, the one that ends with the glory she so richly deserves.

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