Now that we've broken down the story structure of Morning Glory, let's take a look at some other important elements used in this film to enhance the story's presentation.
Repetitive Character Quirks
One of the easiest, most effective ways to differentiate characters is to give them each their own repetitive quirks. Emphasis on the word repetitive. Without repetition it cannot be labeled a quirk, and more importantly, without repetition, the audience will not remember them or identify them with anyone.
Quirks are like ticks. They are small, so if only done once, they are not noticeable. But if they keep biting, so to speak, they will leave their mark.
Becky's main quirk, or character imprint, was her bangs. She was always messing with them, to the point that Pomeroy even made a joke about them. His remark was meant to be insulting, but the audience gets a chuckle out of it because they were setup for this jab from the beginning.
Pomeroy doesn't escape quirkdom, though, and his is much more ridiculous. Just...look at those socks.
What makes this so great is the hilarity of such a polished career man wearing funky socks (a different color every time). It's unexpected.
The socks aren't seen every time we see him, but we see them enough to notice the repetition. And this is important to remember when applying these tics--balance is key. Too much emphasis is annoying; too little, ineffective.
Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford's character) is entirely unlikeable, especially so in his first big scene with Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams' character). He is grumpy and bitter and cold. He insults her, belittles her, even shouts in her face. He doesn't smile once until just before the third act, and even then, it's extremely short-lived.
So what makes us follow him through the story? One word: humor.
It's tough to get between you and a sausage...
They love it!
If an unlikeable character has a dominant trait that is likeable, despite the overwhelming dislike for everything else he portrays, the audience will care what happens to that character. And sometimes, remember, "caring what happens to a character" can very well mean "hoping he gets what he deserves" or "hoping he changes."
The blow-out arguments between Becky and Pomeroy drive the story from point to point. If you surround each major turning point of your plot with an emotional breakdown, they will be both relevant (to the story) and resonant (to the audience).
"Emotional breakdown" doesn't have to mean raging arguments or battle scenes or killing off a character, etc. It just has to be something deeply moving to the protagonist. Something that matters. It could be as outwardly calm as realizing a long-held viewpoint was based on falsehood. In that case, the breakdown occurs inside the character, and it's just as effective.
Everything Has Relevance
The studio's broken doorknobs are not just there to be funny at the beginning of Act Two. They set the scene, they show the mess our protagonist has put herself into. And they are referenced again in the second half of Act Two as a way of showing Becky is making things better for everyone--she gets new doorknobs installed.
Even minor things such as this can do double or even triple work for your story.
Try this exercise: Find a seemingly insignificant prop in one of the early scenes of the first half of your current work-in-progress. Now find a way to bring it back in the second half and make it mean something more than what it is on the surface. Make it part of the subtext.
Some have labeled this movie "romantic comedy", which I suppose is accurate to a point. There are romantic elements, and it is most definitely comedy, but this story is not a romance.
Hard-won successes create a deeply satisfying ending. Becky's career success goal drives the story, but it isn't what makes us cry at the end. The tears come from her breaking Pomeroy's ice, when he does what he swore through the entire story that he'd never do, and he does it solely to keep her in his life.
Big. Ugly. Tears.
So, what did YOU learn from this movie?