Gucci perfume. Louis Vuitton bags. First class. Paris. International. Ah the life of a high-class flight attendant is a luxurious one–and Donna Jensen (Gwyneth Paltrow) wants it almost as much as she wants to get out of the trailer park. It’s her destiny. She finally gets her wish when she becomes a flight attendant with Sierra Airlines (motto: “Big hair short skirts and service with a smile”). But Donna knows there’s even more out there and she and her friend Christine (Christina Applegate) find their ticket in a Royalty Airlines’ flight attendant training program led by John Whitney (Mike Myers) who explains the finer points of oxygen masks disgruntled passengers and airline procedures. Soon “the world’s best flight attendant ” Sally Weston (Candice Bergen) takes Donna under her wing (as it were) and helps her achieve her dream: First class. International. Paris. Despite all her success in the sky however Donna yearns for the guy she left behind Ted (Mark Ruffalo) and she’ll eventually have to choose whether she’ll reach for the skies–or keep her feet on the ground (yes folks it’s really that cheesy).
Cast against type from the outset as ambitious trailer park sweetie Paltrow is so much more believable as the high-end flight attendant she eventually becomes that I swear the audience collectively released the breath it had been holding for the first 67 minutes of the movie. Myers as cross-eyed flight-attendant instructor John Whitney plays Dr. Evil half the time and although the movie’s funny moments are his on the whole they don’t work with the earnest courtship scenes between Ruffalo and Paltrow. Producers say that the Whitney role was a small one until Myers expressed interest and they expanded the part–to the detriment of the film. There’s too much focus on Myers‘ character for the sake of a few laughs when he’s really not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Bergen tosses out her lines in typical throwaway fashion–and her hair is insanely large which is somewhat entertaining–but Applegate just isn’t funny anymore and her catfight scene with Paltrow towards the end is downright scary–it’s like art imitating life in a bizarre statement about those who succeed (Paltrow) and those who fail (Applegate).
On the whole View From the Top is a surreally spotty movie. Is this a sincere romantic comedy? Earnest exchanges between Paltrow and Ruffalo would indicate that it is. Is it a spoof? Myers sure makes it seem like one. Since director Bruno Barreto can’t seem to decide View From the Top spends its 87 minutes doing much the same thing its main character does–trying to find itself. But while Paltrow‘s trailer park girl makes good the movie never does. With a soundtrack from the ’80s (Cyndi Lauper Bon Jovi) costumes from the ’60s (micro micro-minis frosty lipstick and very large hair) and sets from the ’70s (think A Clockwork Orange) it’s difficult for the audience to establish something as simple as what time period we’re in let alone what we’re supposed to make of what’s happening plot-wise.