Does 'Morning Glory' Get Journalism Right?


Paramount Pictures

Morning Glory—a new movie starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford—tells the story of a young television producer trying save a failing morning news show while also maintaining a relationship with her boyfriend. Does it succeed in portraying the struggles female journalists face? We asked three young female journalists for their takes on the movie:

Frances Symes (reporter, Congressional Quarterly): The real "romance" in this brilliantly cast "romantic comedy" is not actually between the protagonist—morning broadcast producer Becky Fuller (McAdams)—and fellow network staffer and love interest Adam Bennett (the devastating handsome Patrick Wilson). Instead, the movie's crucial relationship is between Becky and serious journalist-turned-begrudging-morning news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Ford).

To some, the relationship between Mike and Becky might seem creepy. Mike even tells Becky at one point that she seems to have a "daddy complex." But I found their relationship (except for some highly unprofessional outbursts on Becky's part) reflective of real-life relationships between accomplished and sometimes-chauvinistic men of a certain age and their ambitious, bright and sometimes-bold young female coworkers.

Becky's romance with Adam, on the other hand, wobbles between the realistic and the unconvincing. Besides strong physical attraction, it is difficult to tell exactly what keeps the two together. He's cute, she's crazy, so it must be a match made in movie heaven?

It doesn't really matter, because Becky's energy and attention are focused on Mike, not Adam. Mike is the one she spends her time charming, cajoling, and convincing. And Becky may be just as important to Mike as he is to her. As he tells her in one confusingly sentimental scene, "I had nothing, until you came along."

It is Becky's personal dedication to her work that makes Morning Glory, for all its inconsistency and sometimes cringe-inducing good humor, believable. Mike's warning that Becky "will end up with nothing," is hollow. She does have something, even if it isn't a husband and children and a house in the country. Becky's prize in the end is not true love and a trip down the aisle, but the seemingly transformed Mike, dressed in an apron and cooking eggs in front of the camera. And that fits.


Paramount Pictures

Nicole Allan (research and staff editor, The Atlantic): Rachel McAdams can get pretty much anyone to like anything. I enjoyed myself despite her clichéd Blackberry-fondling and "don't mind me, I ramble when nervous, oh look! I'm doing it again" speech. For me, the incongruous part of the movie was how it appropriated the trite structure of a romantic comedy to tell a story of pure professional ambition.

McAdams' love interest, hunky as Patrick Wilson may be, is overshadowed by Harrison Ford's growling masculine force. McAdams' chemistry with the older actor is strong, but the film couldn't quite figure out how to frame it: broadcast-loving naïf whose idol crushes her idealism? Practical, managerial boss who tames the prickly industry legend? Or girl with daddy issues whose ultimate fulfillment comes in a slightly punitive paternal relationship?

The penultimate scene of the movie captures this confusion. In a luscious dress and pink heels, as if off to a wedding, McAdams comes close to committing to a suitor—she interviews for a job at the Today show, where she's wanted to work since she was a girl—who at first appears more worthy than her rough-around-the-edges morning show. A fateful sign—Ford surrendering his pride and cooking a frittata on air—catches her attention just as she's about to jump ship. Her mind changed, she sprints across New York City in those snazzy pink heels and arrives back in the (figurative) arms of her frittata-maker. It could only have been Harrison, the movie implies, as Wilson pops up in the background, failing to capture McAdams' attention.

I find it refreshing to be liberated from the boy-cures-workaholic-girl plot line, but problematic that even in a movie about a woman who's damn good at her job, resolution still comes in the form of a powerful man.

Eleanor Barkhorn (editor, The Atlantic's Culture channel): I also appreciated the way Morning Glory was really a romance about a young woman and her job, rather than a young woman and her boyfriend. It reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada, which captured the seductive power of a demanding job, as well as the chemistry that develops between an established boss and a young person trying to make it (and which had the same screenwriter as Morning Glory).

But while The Devil Wears Prada was refreshingly, realistically ambivalent about its subject—with a protagonist who at first doesn't even want her impressive job, who both admires and reviles her demanding boss, whose boyfriend has his own career aspirations that might get in the way of hers—Morning Glory presents a story that is frustratingly uncomplicated. Becky desperately wants her job on Daybreak. She idolizes the industry legend she convinces to be the show's co-anchor. She has a boyfriend who, despite his apparently important job at a major television network, has plenty of time to meet her for beers and lure her into his bedroom, and never seems to get calls on his Blackberry or stay up late working on important projects—in other words, his job never gets in the way of their relationship.

In real life, of course, our feelings about everything are much more mixed, and our relationships with both work and people are much more complicated. Morning Glory doesn't allow for that ambiguity—and suffers for it.