‘View from the Top’ crashes and burns

Gwyneth Paltrow and Kelly Preston co-star in 'View from the Top'
Gwyneth Paltrow and Kelly Preston co-star in ‘View from the Top’

After sitting through View from the Top, you might get the impression that somebody at Miramax has a whole bunch of incriminating photographs of the film’s cast. Either that or Bruno Barreto (Bossa NovaOne Tough Cop) must be one damn nice guy that nobody can say no to. Nothing else seems to explain how a film as god awful as this could have been made in the first place, let alone released on an unsuspecting public.

As directed by Barreto (from a script from first-time scribe Eric Wald) View from the Top is a film that never has a sense of itself, and as a result flounders for 87 seemingly endless and laugh-free minutes.

On the one hand it is a comedy, endlessly deriding the small-potato ambitions of its characters. On the other hand, however, it is an inspirational drama about reaching for your dreams — and realizing what those dreams really are. The tone of the film is never set, so we are never sure whether we are rooting for our heroine or mocking her. Personally, I was just relieved when the credits began to roll (credits that, unfortunately, contain some of the least funny “outtakes” of any movie of the modern era).

The heroine of this story is Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a small town girl who dreams of escaping from her humdrum existence in Silver Springs, Nevada. At first her plan is to escape from her dysfunctional family (consisting of a mother and her dimwitted step-father and brother) by running off with her boyfriend, the assistant manager at the local Big Lots megastore. Unfortunately he has plans to make off with another employee who is more “upwardly mobile”.

Heartbroken, Donna finds inspiration in the form of Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), a former airline stewardess and self-help guru. She then sets out on a journey to become a top flight attendant, a journey that will take her from the sleazy, local airline all the way to the prestigious Royalty Air. Along the way she runs into an assortment of studio-mandated cameo celebrities, including Rob Lowe, Mike Myers, and Kelly Preston, and in the end she must decide whether her true dream is to fly the New York-Paris line or marry scruffy Cleveland-based lawyer Ted (Mark Ruffalo).

The cartoonish, over the top first sequences establishing Donna as a flight attendant severely undercut her earnest desire to achieve some amount of respectability. From her clownish “big hair, short skirt” outfit at her first airline gig to her comically dogmatic adherence to even the most trivial of rules in the Royalty Air guidebook, it is very hard to ever take her seriously.

Christina Applegate plays Donna’s not-so-convincing nemesis, and provides little more depth to her character than that of a finely toned bikini bimbo. Mike Myers, as Royalty Air’s top instructor, appears to be stuck in his own personal circle of Dante’s Inferno, where he is forced to rehash old Austin Powers schtick in a series of sequences that are completely out of sync with Paltrow’s sappier, melodramatic scenes.

In the end, there doesn’t seem to be a single thing that this film ends up doing right. A cast riddled with talented performers is completely wasted, and we are left with a pseudo-comedy that attempts to be earnest and tongue-in-cheek simultaneously, and fails on both counts. While Paltrow has made quite a few stinkers in her time,View from the Top stands as her biggest disaster to date.

The DVD doesn’t feature anything exciting enough to make this even a worthwhile rental. The picture quality is not bad, and the sound is fine, but who cares? And if you want to watch a behind the scenes featurette or the silly History of the Flight Attendant” rather than racing back to the video store clasping this abomination with tongs so as not to permanently scar your precious flesh, then go ahead.

But they won’t last long.

Apparently Mr. Wald wrote his script for View from the Top while enrolled in UCLA’s MFA Screenwriting Program. It would be interesting to find out what grade he received for turning out this hackneyed, cliché-riddled little film. If you still have functional brain wavelengths after sitting through till the end, you’d probably give him an F.

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