View from the Top (2003) ** 1/2
Directed by Bruno Barreto. Written by Eric Wald. Photography, Affonso Beato. Editing, Ray Hubley. Production design, Dan Davis. Producers, Brad Grey, Matthew Baer, Bobby Cohen. Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow , Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, Kelly Preston , Candice Bergen, Joshua Malina, Mike Myers. A Miramax release. 87 minutes. PG-13.
"View from the Top" was finished over a year ago but after the 9/11 tragedy, prudence and sensibility to matters aerial caused it to be shelved. It was finally released in 2003 with cuts that brought its length to a modest 87 minutes.
Its reception has been overwhelmingly negative, with only a minuscule percentage of reviewers rating it as good or even fair. I am joining the latter. The film, warts and all, while forgetable, is watchable, entertaining and un-boring.
Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a small-town girl in Nevada. She lives in a trailer with her mother--a former exotic show-girl,--and that lady's current mate, a drunkard. Look fast and you'll catch a glimpse of Mom's flesh. You don't have to look fast in the rest of the film to see, at leisure, plenty more flesh belonging to Donna and her colleagues Christine (Christina Applegate) and Sherry (Kelly Preston). But I am getting ahead of myself.
Donna, who sells travel stuff in the town's mall, is impressed by a best-seller written by motivational speakers Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), a former stewardess (that's what we used to call them) who rose to heights and power in the posh Royalty Airlines and married its CEO. (Remember, this is only a movie.) So, under such influences Donna opts for a grander life. Though totally unqualified she becomes (remember again, it is a fantasy) a Flight Attendant for shabby Sierra Airlines (too messy and alcoholic to be allowed to fly, but never mind) and its puddle-jumpers ( I've seen worse.) Donna and her female colleagues make up a trio of pals, often seen in skin-tight uniforms and skimpy bikinis.
Then, with the help of Ms. Bergen (don't ask) the trio achieve the unattainable. They become candidates for Royalty Airlines. In charge of the training is Mike Myers, a colorful fellow who is wall-eyed or strabistic or has a glass eye (choose one) and cannot achieve his dearest wish of becoming a steward, is (do not ask. Please!) the person who trains the would-be attendants.
Cut to a final, written exam of candidates. Donna, though it is blindingly obvious that she's The Ace Student, does not make it to the coveted International flights, but does get retained for Royalty Express, i.e. un-prestigious local flights, based in Cleveland -which city ought to sue for defamation. A consolation is that she gets re-united with her current boyfriend, off and on law student Mark Ruffalo.
Eventually comes a twist: a cheating against her leads to a second exam which Donna passes triumphantly, and upgrades her to International, first-class (as opposed to steerage, a.k.a "economy" class) status on flights that go to Paris (France, that is, not Texas or Illinois.)
Is this a dumb movie? Yes. Improbable? Ditto. Wrongly edited? Sometimes, as in shots of Gwyneth's unconventional nose running (the photos, not the nose) from sunburned to no-burn. Or Christina Applegate's random and too flimsy characterizations, while Kelly Preston's are practically nonexistent. But the flick is relaxing, undemanding and funny. Among its plusses: some jokes by and about gay male stewards done with naturalness and no condescension; some burdens of female attendants nicely sketched out. Better yet, Mike Myers, whom I cannot stand and have always found forced and unfunny, is both comical and touching here.