The Daily Stream: Women And Men Can Be Friends In Morning Glory

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Morning Glory"

Where You Can Stream It: Paramount+

The Pitch: Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is a morning show producer at a local New Jersey television station. Though she doesn't have the credentials and education you would expect from someone in her position, she is quite good at what she does. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop her from getting sacked after the station goes through budget cuts and consolidation. 

After applying to any gig she can, Becky gets the opportunity to be the executive producer for the national morning show "Daybreak," which has been solidly in fourth place in the ratings for years on the fledgling IBS Network. After firing the lazy lech of a co-host on her first day, she decides to bring in the outrageously ornery Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a once respected serious newsman, to co-host alongside "Daybreak" stalwart Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). 

Mike could not be less interested in delivering the trivial stories that morning shows specialize in, making Becky's life even more complicated when the network sets its sights on canceling the show. Meanwhile, she starts up a romance with a producer for the network's magazine show (Patrick Wilson), which she struggles to balance alongside her complete dedication to her work.

Why it's essential viewing

Thankfully, the term "chick flick" has been basically retired at this point. Those two words plagued how people spoke about female-centric films for a long time, being particularly disparaging to both light romantic comedies and tearjerking melodramas. They were seen as disposable, unsubstantial, and clogging up the multiplexes where more "serious" films should be playing (like movies about men in spandex costumes with laser eyes). Unquestionably, many of these dismissed movies were not very good, as is the case with literally any genre, but even the really good ones were rarely given the time of day. Positive feelings were relegated to "guilty pleasure" status.

Now, we live in a world where films like this can rarely be found playing in a theater, and we have to work overtime to show that these mid-budget, star-driven films about women deserve their place on the big screen. When "Morning Glory" was released, it was not particularly well liked, receiving mediocre reviews and doing so-so at the box office. Today, it is a wonderful breath of fresh air that we could only dream of returning to.

Threading the needle of a film that blends such a light touch with truthful emotion is incredibly difficult. Roger Michell, the recently departed British director of "Notting Hill," "Venus," and "Le Week-End," knows how to find that balance to the point where it feels effortless. He can find the stakes in the humorous scenes and never lets the melodrama reach excessive peaks. Is it flashy? No, but it doesn't need to be. "Morning Glory" thrives off of its tonal control, and Michell was one of the greats when it came to expertly managing that control without ever having the audience feel the hand of the filmmaker.

The importance of female/male friendships

If you see descriptions of "Morning Glory" anywhere, chances are strong you will see it described as a romantic comedy. While there is technically a romance between Rachel McAdams and Patrick Wilson, that story is, at best, the C story. "Morning Glory" is a workplace comedy, and the key relationship is not between McAdams and Wilson; it's between McAdams and Harrison Ford. This is a completely platonic relationship between a woman and a man in which they grow to a better understanding of one another through their respect for each other's work. They get on each other's nerves, but the real reason they upset one another is because they both are filled with insecurities.

What is so wonderful about their relationship is that they see each other as the human beings they are. Mike isn't drawn to Becky because she reminds him of his daughter or dead wife or whatever, and she doesn't look up to him out of some daddy complex. A lesser movie would have that scene where they are sharing their first tender, human moment, and he says, "You know who you remind me of?" No, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna doesn't need to do any of that nonsense. They are colleagues forced into a situation, and they learn to accept each other.

Stories about women and men forming friendships is so rare on film, particularly if both characters are heterosexual. Every movie feels the need to throw in some kind of sexual tension to manufacture drama, ranging from a slight misunderstanding to just a full-on relationship. "Morning Glory" shows that these are not necessary speed bumps. Two people can simply see each other as people and not sexual prospects. It could not be more refreshing to see this on screen.

Rachel McAdams has always been the best

I tend to get a little despondent when an actor I love signs up to be a part of a superhero universe. Of course, it is very good that they will be well paid for their work, but I just know they are going to get wrapped up in something that can take up a good chunk of time they could be spending doing more adventurous, exciting projects. I don't think my heart sank faster than when I saw Rachel McAdams show up in the first "Doctor Strange" movie. You have one of the great actors of her generation, and she's playing a love interest with basically no character traits? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has its fair share of meaty roles, but she just gets nothing to do in that movie.

Above all else, that part takes away one of her greatest strengths: it does not let her be funny. Rachel McAdams is a classically gorgeous leading lady who can carry a lot of dramatic weight in a picture (if you haven't seen "Disobedience," change that), but her comedic talents are special. I see her as the heir apparent to Meg Ryan. McAdams has the innate ability to portray awkwardness, neurosis, and enthusiasm all at the same time without making it feel like schtick. She is unable to perform a false moment and perfectly delivers every gag within that truth.

Obviously, this is best captured in the perfect line reading of "Oh, no! He died!" from "Game Night," but you can find that same ineffable comic energy back in "Morning Glory" as well. This is the one time a comedy was placed on her shoulders. First-billed. Number one on the call sheet. It should not have been the last (and hopefully won't be).

A major bright spot for Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford in the 21st century is ... a mixed bag, let's say. His choice of projects has a very low batting average, and his investment in those projects often feels more like he's searching for cash than a character. One might assume that Ford signing up for a light, mid-budget studio comedy where he plays second banana to someone who isn't proven box office gold would be one of those movies he just phones in. This could not be further from the truth. Harrison Ford came to play.

By 2010, Ford had developed a bit of a reputation for being somewhat of a grump. You just look at a talk show appearance or interview with him, and he looks like he would rather be anywhere else. In "Morning Glory," he weaponizes that grouchy persona brilliantly into pure comedy. His over-the-top passive aggression to just about everything asked of his character scores a big laugh every single time. Some may just say he is playing himself, but there are plenty of moments throughout the picture where he lets down his guard and shows that all this gruffness is an act or defense mechanism.

Rarely do actors get credit for the self-awareness they possess about their own star personas. People think Nicolas Cage is just some crazy guy and not an actor purposefully crafting his own aura. Harrison Ford fully knows how ornery he can come across, and "Morning Glory" allows him the opportunity to adjust those levels depending on the scene. It is an extremely smart, committed, and hilarious performance that by the end makes one a little misty in the eye region.

'The key to a great frittata is a very hot pan'

"Morning Glory" is not some life-changing masterpiece. It does not aim to be that. What "Morning Glory" is so great at is knowing exactly what it wants to be and how to achieve it. This is a pleasant, funny, emotional 107 minutes that you can put on whenever you want to feel that beautiful warmth of humanity that only Hollywood knows how to deliver. Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Roger Michell, Aline Brosh McKenna, and every other person who worked on this film were operating perfectly in the pocket of this kind of movie and delivered one of the best of the era.

Films in the vein of "Morning Glory" are hard to come by these days, especially ones that are afforded the same resources. This was a $40 million movie starring a trio of genuine movie stars and vibrantly shot on 35mm that was distributed by a major studio in Paramount. The days of movies like this being made should not be over. Go watch "Morning Glory" and show the suits that these wonderful movies are still valuable.