I am not sure if others felt the same way, but after reading Ayoade On Top (well, listening to the Audiobook, which I highly recommend) I knew that I had to see this film. In case you aren't aware of the connection, Ayoade On Top is a book in which Richard Ayoade critiques View From The Top in a very funny, very tongue-in-cheek, way, comparing the directorial choices and the performances to great moments in cinematic history. You could watch the film before reading his book, but I assure you that enjoying the book first is the best way to go about things. And don't worry about spoilers, as View From The Top is a film so predictable and bizarre that it's pretty much impossible to spoil.
All you need to know about the plot is that Gwyneth Paltrow plays Donna Jensen, a young woman who dreams of being a flight attendant, aiming for a coveted, classy, route that will take her to Paris. She also develops a nice little romance with Ted Stewart (played by Mark Ruffalo), but that might have to be pushed aside as she focuses on her career goals, all the while following the guidance in a book written by Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), who is essentially the queen of all flight attendants.
It's no surprise to see that this is the first, and so far only, movie script written by Eric Wald. It strives to be so inoffensively bland, and fits everything together like a jigsaw made for 4-year-olds, that it somehow becomes a film that you start to actively dislike. The tone just isn't right either, with the gentle humour (oh Mike Myers and your inward-looking right eye, chortle, chortle) married to material that has Paltrow smiling and winking at viewers, as if everyone is in on "the joke" together. We're not. Mainly because it never feels like there's a proper joke there.
Director Bruno Barreto has an eclectic filmography, and there are certainly other films from him that I am sure I will check out one day (although not because they sound great, they just sound like they could be more fun than this one). Hailing from Brazil, another consideration for the strange experience of View From The Top COULD be something lost in translation. Barreto may have wanted to make something quite different from the final product, it's hard to tell, but we can only judge what we're left with. And we are not left with anything good.
Paltrow doesn't do well in the lead role. Her performance is patronising (considering the kind of small town girl that she's playing) and she doesn't help the comedic tone by simply putting on her big eyes and being overly earnest for most of her scenes. That earnestness affects everyone, however, and Ruffalo is also doing far from his best work here, although he's a bit more likeable, mainly due to his ability to not slavishly follow some set guidelines for a rigid career path that could lead to losing out on love. Bergen does well in her few scenes, nicely fitting into the role of air flight royalty, and Christina Applegate is quite fun in her scenes, as she's the only character in the film who doesn't feel as annoyingly goody goody as everyone else. Myers is allowed to indulge himself with his cross-eyed schtick, and he's not good. He's not good at all, but that tends to be the way with Myers, he will fully commit to something and it either works or it doesn't.
I am sure that someone could enjoy this. There are maybe even quite a few people who would defend it to others. Change just a few details and it's not entirely unlike a thousand other stories of "young woman/man overcomes odds to achieve dream". It just makes enough strange choices, from script to casting, from the music selection to the overall direction of the film, to feel worse than so many of them. By any sane measurement, this is a long way from the top.
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