Starring: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson
Director: Roger Michell
I’m sure I can’t be the only person who feels the whole process would’ve been a lot less painful for everyone if Harrison Ford had just shot Rachel McAdams when she came to him with that job offer in the first place. I mean, he had the gun right there and everything.
For the longest time, a particularly tedious meme involved people pointing out what a mess Lindsay Lohan’s life is in now, and how all of her Mean Girls co-stars have gone on to far greater things. The validity of that claim even at the time notwithstanding (where’s Glen Coco now, eh? Working at TGI Friday, I believe), nowadays I’m really not so sure. I can quite picture ol’ LiLo looking over her life and thinking “well, sure, there was the DUI, and the dual Razzie win, and the house arrest, and my bloody mother, but at least I wasn’t in Morning Glory. Or The Vow. At least I still have my dignity.” Because, seriously: we know that Rachel McAdams is a talented actress, but she’s fast reaching Anna Faris-levels of You Are Better Than This, Sack Your Agent Already due to the dreck she keeps ending up in.
McAdams’ character, Becky Fuller, is a struggling TV producer, who’s sacked from her job on a local morning show following some corporate restructuring, and whose absolute bitch of a mother (interesting fact: I’d seen the actress who plays Becky’s mother on TV earlier the same day that I watched this, in an episode of Murder, She Wrote that involved an evil driverless car that killed various residents of Cabot Cove. No, really) tells her that she’s 28 now and it’s REALLY EMBARRASSING that she’s trying to, y’know, have a career and everything, and that she’d really be better off giving up now and having babies and a little part-time job in a cake shop before everyone starts to think she’s a fucking nutcase. Or something like that, anyway; it was so fucking insulting that I stopped paying attention, and I also lost what little respect I had for Becky when she didn’t instantly shove her hateful mother’s head straight down the toilet and flush it. Anyway, Becky struggles to find another job, because she’s underqualified, apparently. I think this is supposed to make her likeable, in the same way that she’s also hopeless with men, so weak that she can’t open doors, eternally self-deprecating and a whirling cartoon of bugged out determination. I think she is supposed to REPRESENT WOMEN EVERYWHERE. Worryingly, this script was written by a woman. I have a horrible feeling she meant it to be empowering.
Anyway, Becky flukes her way into a job on a failing national breakfast show (called Daybreak, inadvertently providing excessive amounts of lulz for British viewers) and is given a limited amount of time to turn it around, which she does by hiring a cantankerous old codger (Ford) who hates her and also hates his co-host (Keaton). Hilarity fails to ensue. McAdams does her best with a thankless part, but she tries so hard to infuse Becky with an infectious energy that she just becomes grating after a while. More to the point, we’re frequently told that Becky is good at what she does but we’re rarely shown it – she eventually drives up the audience figures by filling the show with lowest common denominator claptrap and torturing the weatherman. At one point, Ford’s character goes rogue in order to give the show a much needed exclusive regarding the arrest of a politician – it’s a move that Becky does her utmost to thwart when she realises what’s going on, and then takes all the credit for when she realises what a good idea it is. Again, we’re supposed to find this endearing. Her ceaseless pandering eventually attracts the attention of NBC’s Today Show, where she’s always wanted to work (I wonder how much attention NBC’s executives paid to this script, because being seen to want to hire this clueless goon doesn’t exactly paint a jolly picture of them), is given an interview that takes place at the exact same time her show is airing (OF COURSE) and ultimately decides to stay with Daybreak because she’s Only Just Begun.
What little joy exists in this movie comes courtesy of the veterans: Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum (who plays Becky’s boss), all of them playing grouchy caricatures and having an absolute whale of a time, because they know it’s poor Rachel McAdams who’s actually got to try to ground this mess in reality, not them. Patrick Wilson also features as the least well-developed male love interest this side of Mean Girls‘ Aaron Samuels, though he and McAdams do at least muster a reasonable amount of chemistry.
More than anything, what frustrated me about this film was that it seemed so muddled in terms of the general point it was trying to make. Was it trying to make an argument for the importance of serious journalism? Because if so, it failed since the big political scoop is never relevant to the show’s eventual success. Was it making fun of the fluff, information-lite content of breakfast television? Because if so, it failed that too, by virtue of having no depth of its own. Or perhaps was it trying to marshall a defence for that kind of gentle magazine television? If so, again I’d say it failed purely by virtue of Becky being so terrible at her job and having to resort to what are clearly desperate tactics in order to get anyone at all to watch. It seemed to want to be all things to all people, and ended up being none of them – much like Becky herself.