View From the Top
Let's start with the obvious: She can bury herself under a mountain of big hair and give her voice more small-town twang than the entire cast of "Hee-Haw," but Gwyneth Paltrow will never be convincing as a trailer-park tramp. Try though she might, little Gwynnie's good breeding and excellent bone structure just can't be overcome (poor thing). That, however, is one of the lesser problems in View from the Top (2003). In fact, Ms. Paltrow's sunny performance (as unconvincingly white trashy as it may be) is one of the movie's more engaging features. The real issue is that director Bruno Barreto's comedy about aspiring flight attendant Donna (Paltrow) never really takes off (pun intended). Stranded somewhere on the vast Tarmac of space between sincere romantic comedy and wacky screwball romp, View is too sweet to be truly funny and too over-the-top to be truly charming. The costumes alone would lead one to believe that the film meant to fulfill the slapstick promise we all saw in the TV ads Donna and her friends Sherry (Kelly Preston) and Christine (Christina Applegate) would be underdressed for Hooters in the tight, gaudy polyester uniforms they wear while working for backwater Sierra Airlines. But View's only real bursts of comic energy come in the form of Mike Myers, who co-stars as cross-eyed flight attendant instructor extraordinaire John Whitney. Donna and Christine meet John when they qualify for Royalty Air's intense training program, a rigorous course in which ambitious Donna who left handsome Ted (Mark Ruffalo) behind to follow her dreams excels. But even the praise and advice of her mentor, Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), can't prevent Donna from hitting a few bumpy patches on her flight to happiness; ultimately, it's up to Donna herself to decide whether she's happier in first class or flying coach. Had Barreto and screenwriter Eric Wald recognized and sent up the cheesiness of metaphors like that last one, rather than backing them up with earnest, soul-searching moments, View from the Top could have been a great comedy instead, it's a both a mediocre comedy and a mediocre romantic comedy, and that's almost as frustrating as losing your luggage. Miramax's DVD is as much of a lightweight as the film itself. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio is nice, and the anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is strong (a French stereo track also is available), but the disc's only features are a brief (we're talking "extended trailer") "making-of" featurette, a shameless plug for the soundtrack disguised as another featurette, a few sneak-peek previews, and a 10-minute look at the history of the flight attendant. That last is actually rather interesting; who knew "sexy stews" had to wear paper uniforms in the '70s? English closed-captioning, keep-case.