“Morning Glory,” toting a script with more clunks than the 1930s Fords its characters drive, plays like a TV miniseries rather than a feature pic. It’s got some heart, a rustic tone and Superman star appeal of Christopher Reeve, but B.O. looks to be lukewarm.
The story, based on LaVyrie Spencer’s 1989 novel of the same name, shows sparks of originality, with Reeve as down-and-out ex-con Will Parker who answers a newspaper classified ad for a husband. But weak scripting and a choppy, uninspired narrative turn the Depression-era yarn into a garbled collection of predictable soap opera scenes against an albeit nicely lensed backdrop of rural Canadian farmland. Pic moves at a decent clip, but sacrifices character and sense as it whooshes along.
Plot starts simply, then gets lost in its own twists. Recently widowed Elly Dinsmore (Deborah Raffin) is not looking for love, just someone to share the chores. She’s got two kids, with one more on the way, but she’s shunned as a crazy recluse by her small Georgia town. Parker, broke and fresh from a murder rap, appears on her doorstep to take the “husband” job. At first they are sweetly nervous together, stumbling over each other in the tiny house. But after a cloying musical montage of chopping wood, milking cows and fixing up the backwoods cabin, they drop anchor, culminating in a love scene that feels outrageously out of place.
Then, as if imported from a different pic, sheriff Reese Goodloe (J.T. Walsh) roughs up Parker and local floozy Lula Peaks (Helen Shaver) pesters him with seduction attempts. Suddenly Lulu’s dead, the sheriff is mad and Parker is back in jail.
What might have been an intriguing tale of two lovers coming together under oddly adverse circumstances turns into a flashy murder trial drama resolved by a ridiculous deus ex machina.
Despite flaws, helmer Steven Stern (“Money,””Rolling Vengeance”) periodically shows a delicate touch. In Elly’s childbirth scene, he trains the lens on her other children, bored at the kitchen table, unsure what’s happening. Lenser Laszlo George offers requisite rural vistas, sunlit grassy fields in soft breezes.
Reeve is a sturdy, if not stiff, leading man. But his Man of Steel history plagues the blue-eyed hunk.
No matter how much they smudge his face, he looks like Clark Kent. He gives Parker a pensive demeanor that’s incongruous with his prison time, but appeals.
Raffin, who co-scripted and whose hubby, Michael Viner, produced, uses small, affected gestures and ticks to convey her questionable madness. She’s stunningly beautiful in the setting sun, but doesn’t have the dramatic weight necessary to carry the pic.
The ever-solid Walsh offers a small-town sheriff at his sleaziest, despite floating in and out of his Southern accent.
Pic may have better luck in cable and homevid.