View from the Top
Grade: B-
Year: 2003
Director: Bruno Barreto
Writer: Eric Wald
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati

This has been another horrible weekend for most critics, but a fabulous one for me. I finally caught up with "The Hunted," and I was pleasantly pleased with that engaging thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. "Dreamcatcher" was awesome; I think I liked it so much because all the negative attention set the bar much lower than it should have been. At this point, I didn't care that "Boat Trip" was terrible, who didn't see that coming? Then I walk into "View from the Top," a sweet and innocent film you should bring your depressed friend to. In fact, it is such a charming film that I was too preoccupied by its warmth to notice the apparently dull humor that wasn't taken kindly but the majority of movie critics this weekend.

"View from the Top" is about chasing dreams, even when that dream isn't to become a doctor, lawyer or baseball player. Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow) is going nowhere in Silver Spring, a small town in Nevada that seems to collect whatever Las Vegas kicks off its premises. Her mother is former exotic dancer and is now on her--if Donna counted correctly, fourth husband. Donna works at a dead-end job at a department store, and was just recently dumped by her boyfriend who fell for the girl working the 'barbeque' department.

While in a depressed state at the neighborhood bar, Donna finds inspiration in an "Oxygen" television book-interview (the bar must not get SportsCenter) of Sally (Candice Bergen), the world's most famous flight attendant and self-acclaimed motivated speaker. Sally's best-selling book inspires Donna to become a flight attendant, where nothing will stop her from leaving Silver Spring and seeing the world. She starts at the lowly commuter company, Sierra Airlines, and quickly goes from being a nervous wreck, yelling, "the plane is going to crash!" to the best in the business. Realizing she can do better, Donna grabs some of her close co-worker friends (Christina Applegate and Kelly Preston) and soon applies for Royalty, a prestigious international airliner that travels to all of the big cites, even Paris, France.

The bulk of the film takes place at the school for Royalty flight attendants. It is here where we meet John Whitney (Mike Myers), the aggressive yet misunderstood flight attendant instructor. He once dreamed of becoming a flight attendant, but his crossed eye kept him on the ground and in the school where he teachers the more fortunate. It's a surprise role for Myers as he isn't the star of this show, but he's effective nonetheless, and funny whenever he speaks.

Bad things happen that I won't mention, and they land Donna not at Royalty, but at Royalty Express, the discount airline that doesn't fly transatlantic. She will reapply again for the Paris route, but for now is stuck in Cleveland. She meets Ted (Mark Ruffalo), a law student who instantly falls in love with her, but understands that their careers are taking them two different places. A conflict from this relationship will arise that will have Donna in the end choosing between option A or option B; I don't think I have to tell you what those options are.

Paltrow is adorable, and she usually is, but her appeal in this movie is what saves it from sinking. The other characters are enjoyable too; anticipate a brief cameo by former "The West Wing" star, Rob Lowe as a co-pilot who has no purpose in this movie other than to prove he can still find work. The film was written by Eric Wald while attending UCLA at a screenwriters class. This is his first screenplay, and it looks like his career is promising.

It's not typical for a movie's plot to be about flight attendants. The movie doesn't completely glorify the servants in the sky, but it does to some to degree. The women (and one man) take pride in their work, which displays a good message not often seen in movies. Lazy-eyed John takes his job so serious, that it was rather funny to listen to one of his monologues on the privileges of being a flight attendant--all of this takes place while Donna scribbles ferociously in her notes in preparation for the big final exam.

The ending is the worst part of the film. It's hackneyed and completely non-inspirational, but those already enjoying the first 3/4 of the movie won't be bothered. A scene that would have been best left out of the movie takes place on a plane before one of the flights. Donna and a co-worker go at in a quick catfight brawl; it's pretty embarrassing, but something tells me Paltrow does these scenes for a reason. As the credits roll, a completely unnecessary karaoke-party takes place, and again, I see Paltrow doing this movie as an excuse to have fun.

"View from the Top" is the perfect date film for couples not wanting to feel overwhelmed. It's 'lite' on the comedy; I don't recall ever hawking out a good hard laugh, but I couldn't help but smile at almost every turn. When I did laugh, it wasn't at the intentional jokes; it was at the small mannerisms that didn't beg for a reaction. Because of his condition, Mike Myers doesn't always get the name right as he has to look carefully with his one good eye. When the nametag says, "Donna," he greets "Dana." But when the nametag says, "Sarah," he greets, "Christine." It's the little non-abrasive jokes that you will have to pick-up on to enjoy this film. Yes, it has all the silly dialogue and predictable conclusions, but I'll take "View from the Top" over "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," any day.

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Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati