The Decline of Western Civilization Part III
Strange movie this; a film that takes the cause and consequence of the demise of intelligent media, polishes it up, lays it out brazenly, then expects you to whoop and applaud. From beginning to end – with a Natasha Bedingfield theme song plonked saccharinely in-between – it’s a film that refuses to acknowledge the ills it’s promoting, or if it does, lumbers on banally regardless.
Director Roger Michell has form at this sort of thing – the South African stood behind the camera for 1999’s Notting Hill. Yet where that film was vacuous, self absorbed but ruggedly likeable (a quip which star Hugh Grant is welcome to co-opt for his headstone), Morning Glory is just stupid. It tells the story of TV producer Becky Fuller (played by Rachel McAdams, a good actress but thoroughly unlikeable here), who takes a job at a New York network breakfast TV show, then proceeds to shit her principles down the pan in the search for down-market ratings and tawdry reward.
If that sounds snobby, it’s not supposed to – Anchorman succeeded in being fun without sullying the importance of the medium it poked fun at. But Morning Glory frequently skims the scope for comment on modern television, without ever saying anything smart. In fact, Morning Glory is a film that loathes smartness; prize-winning journalist Mike Pomeroy (played by Harrison Ford, disinterestedly prodding the parameters of his range) is celebrated for turning his back on journalistic standards and frying an egg. The message appears to be, ‘save that news report on displaced refugees for another time, you’re bumming everyone out!’ In all honesty, it’s unlikely that American media needs any more encouragement to do so.
The films saving grace is the squabbling of Pomeroy and co-anchor Colleen Peck (played by the iconic Diane Keaton), who take to each other like fire and gas. Further grit comes from the acerbic quipping of network executive Jeff Goldblum. But ultimately the film’s message is so distasteful – such anthemia to anything a contemporary film should be saying about media – that such comedic asides are as worrying as they are wry. Morning Glory is a film that spends its running time staring into the abyss and giggling. Its audience might not be able to resist pushing it in.