Dir: Bruno Barreto. US. 2003. 87mins.
Not the absolute disaster many had anticipated, this long-delayed star-studded comedy should overcome its numerous artistic failings and produce some decent numbers on theatrical release around the world. Certainly its $7m opening from 2,508 sites in North America was nothing to be ashamed of, and Miramax Films and its international distribution partners can be confident that the film will pay back their investment in ancillary markets where a Gywneth Paltrow/Mike Myers star vehicle has value.
As in North America, critical response will be hostile. View From The Top is a bungled attempt at a feelgood comedy which has clearly been so heavily tinkered with in the editing room that the comic out-takes which run over the credits show several scenes which didn't make it into the final - very short - cut. Effective as neither romantic comedy nor slapstick farce, the film is only watchable for the valiant efforts of the cast which also includes Mark Ruffalo, Candice Bergen and Kelly Preston.
The film is directed by Bruno Barreto, the Brazilian film-maker who has no shortage of experience in making comedies (Bossa Nova in 2000, Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands in 1976) but seriously misjudges his milieu here. Treating his working-class characters as vulgar stereotypes, he fails to evoke sympathy for them nor humour out of them.
Paltrow is Donna Jansen, an ambitious home-town girl from Silver Springs, Nevada, who finds inspiration in the autobiography of flight attendant Sally Weston (Bergen) and sets her mind to become a flight attendant.
She starts off getting a job with Sierra Airlines, a two-bit domestic carrier where she becomes friends with Sherry (Preston) and Christine (Applegate). One weekend, while out sunning themselves, they meet Ted (Ruffalo), a law-school dropout who takes a shine to Donna.
Their flirtation, however, doesn't last long since Donna and Christine land places on the training programme for the prestigious Royalty Airlines run by cross-eyed John Whitney (Myers). Once installed on the programme, Donna gets to meet Weston, who takes her under her wing, and she excels in all her classes. However, when the final examination results are released, Donna has mystifyingly come near the bottom of her class and is sent to Cleveland to work on the domestic Royalty express line. Her dreams of Paris and first class are shattered.
Once in Cleveland, she runs in to Ted, who is back in law school and they fall in love. But after a visit from Christine, who has landed a flying route based in New York, she begins to realise that her unrefined friend has switched their test papers. She determines to right the wrong done to her, but in the process, could lose Ted.
Characters flit in and out of View From The Top, displaying scant purpose and motivation for their actions. Applegate's trashy bitch character appears to hate Donna, but we are never clear as to why, while Preston is unceremoniously dumped from the film early on, never to return. Bergen and Myers are reassuring presences and Ruffalo in particular displays hints of leading man quality as the too-good-to-be-true Ted. Paltrow is too patrician to play Donna, but nevertheless displays her considerable charisma which smooths over many of the film's startling lapses in sense.
Prod cos: Brad Grey Pictures, Cohen Pictures, Miramax Films
US dist: Miramax Films
Int'l sales: Miramax International
Exec prods: Amy Slotnick, Robbie Brenner, Alan C Blomquist
Prods: Brad Grey, Matthew Baer, Bobby Cohen
Scr: Eric Wald
Cinematography: Alfonso Beato
Prod des: Dan Davis
Ed: Christopher Greenbury
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Main cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, Candice Bergen, Kelly Preston, Mike Myers, Rob Lowe, Marc Blucas, Jon Polito