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View From The Top

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Language/Sexual References)

Running Time: 87 minutes

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, Candice Bergen, Joshua Malina, Rob Lowe with Kelly Preston and Mike Myers

Written by: Eric Wald

Directed by: Bruno Barreto

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: History Of The Flight Attendant, A Journey Inside "View From The Top," Music Of "View From The Top," Sneak Peeks

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (17 Scenes)

Released: September 9th, 2003

 

 

"View From The Top" is the inspiring story of Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young woman desperate to escape her small Nevada town and follow her dreams, all while going out to see the world. Donna is inspired by a famous flight attendant, Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), and Donna wants to have a career as an airline attendant. Things start off pretty well for Donna as she moves from an attendant for a local Nevada airline to bigger and better things at Royal Airlines. As Donna heads out to pursue her dreams and destiny, things begin to get more complex and harder for her - especially when her friend Christine (Christina Applegate) becomes jealous and Donna falls for a law student named Ted (Mark Ruffalo). Will Donna meet her true destiny, or will new dreams and responsibilities change her life?

There's somewhat of a history being "View From The Top." What was once a promising comedy soon got pushed into oblivion, as the film kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed. The film made its grand debut in March 2003 where it flopped at the box office, was destroyed by critics and even had Ms. Paltrow saying that she likes to call the film "View From My Ass." With all that baggage coming along with it (no pun, I swear!), is "View From The Top" really that bad?

Personally, I don't think so. Granted, this is not a great movie nor a great comedy. But if you go in with the right attitude and realize what this movie actually is, it's not as bad as you'd probably be led to believe. "View From The Top" is a really stupid and cheesy comedy - it's ludicrous, predictable and corny. But when I say all of that, I mean it in a good way. It feels like a throwback to many of the film comedies of the 1980s (a genre I have a particular fondness for) - something that's not only unusual, but something that not many really discuss these days.

Yet the more I think about it, the more I think this movie would perfectly fit into the stupid 1980s comedy genre. I don't know if it's because of the length of the movie (87 minutes with credits!), how the characters are strictly predictable and clichéd, how absurd the plot is in that it's something that tends to cross the line of feeling direct-to-videoish (hey, most 1980s comedies were pretty ridiculous) or in that the movie teaches an inspiring lesson about following your destiny and working hard for your dreams. Come on, aren't most 80s comedies about overcoming the odds and making us feel good inside? And besides, this one is metaphorical and symbolic! How can you not get anymore direct than the airplane and the sky? Airplanes soar above the world, airplanes go up and then go down, the sky's the limit, etc. There's a hidden depth to this movie that makes it work on an entirely different - and even more inspriational - level.

If there's one thing which I really enjoyed about "View From The Top," it's that it's music cues are perfect. The music choices are excellent, especially in what scenes they're posistioned in and how they come in and out. There's some old time hits, some 1980s favorites, excellent "feel-good-jump-around" pop songs and a strong melodramatic that breezes around courtesy of Theodore Shapiro. I seriously can't think of the last movie that had such a strong soundtrack that is integrated into the film so perfectly.

Eric Wald's script is as light as a feather, filled with characters and situations we all know so well - to the point where they're beyond stereotypical. But that's okay. Sure the set-ups for all the main plot points can be seen from a mile away. And sure, the dialogue, relationships and scenarios these characters get themselves into are the epitome of cheese. There's even a love subplot to tie it all together and make the themes even more coherent (not that they needed to be). The laughs aren't always extraordinary, and while they can be unintentional with some of the lines and situations, there's a nice variety to them. There are jokes at the expense of characters, some one-liners, humor about what people don't know and some decent physical comedy.

Bruno Barreto directed the movie, and he does a solid job overall as he sets the correct tone for this comedy. He knows that it's something light and that it should be fun for what it is - he takes everything to the cleaners and does his best to make it what it's worth. The film's humor is adjusted evenly throughout, and the film is well-paced with just the proper amount of development for the story and how the characters partake in it. Barreto has a nice directing style as far as shots established and how the film is edited - there is one very memorable shot of Donna's apartment later on in the movie that just spins around as we see the (somewhat) growth of Donna career-wise. I'm sure Barreto helped add a bit more cheese to the film, but "View From The Top" really is good clean fun. I suppose the skimpy costumes Paltrow and company wear early on warranted a PG-13 rating.

If anything though, the peformances probably make this movie much better than it is. Gwyneth Paltrow walks through this role and by no means is it one of he best, but she has good comedic timing and dons a a nice Nevada drawl for the role. Mark Ruffalo, who really is an outstanding actor, makes a nice leading man and has good chemistry with Paltrow on-screen. Christina Applegate, an underrated actress in my opinions, thrives and seems to enjoy being the absolute bitch. Kelly Preston puts in a nice and sweet but very brief performance, but it's a lead compared to Rob Lowe's brief "I-stay-right-here-and-say-the-lines-and-I'm-done-where's-my-check-and-I-get-my-name-on-the-poster" cameo. Still, my favorite performances in the film were from Candice Bergen as Donna's mentor and Mike Myers as a flight attendant trainer. Bergen brings a fun sensibility and sizeable warmth, while Myers is over-the-"top" (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, GET IT!?) in his role. Everytime Myers appeared on screen, he ALWAYS made me crack a smile. He arguably gets some of the film's best moments and lines, not to mention a hilarious cross-eye (that rhyme was not intentional, I swear!).

I've started to think that more comedies should be like "View From The Top." While I'm still all for studios and filmmakers creating original and sidesplitting comedies, most of them in this day and age are just terrible or tend to be quite overrated. Perhaps if studios tend to aim a bit lower, they can create something out of the fact that less can be more. Studios tend to recycle everything else from the past, so why not go back and recapture flavors of cheesy 1980s comedies? I'm all for having more comedies that may be stupid in nature and may not be completely amazing, but have this innocence to them and are entertaining in their own small and weird ways.

There's a certain charm to movies like "View From The Top." It's a fluffy piece of entertainment you can't take too seriously or even as a "real" comedy. The film has a few laughs, but it is a bit abrupt at times and going in, you'll know how it'll end. I'm not sure if this movie is worth full price at the theater (which I actually paid to see when it came out), but it's definitely a fun Friday night rental. I definitely see "View From The Top" as one of those movies which will become a staple in the rental world, and then have an endless run on TNT and TBS in a few years (just like most 80s movies) where it'll probably reach the most people (nothing like basic cable to gain a huge audience and plenty of new fans). Soon enough, everyone who ignored this movie upon its initial theatrical release will have seen it late one night. And soon enough, there will be references to it in other pieces of pop culture, people will be quoting it and maybe even worship it as it will have become a classic from 2003 in its own sick and twisted way.

 

 

"View From The Top" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen - a pretty wide aspect ratio for a comedy, but this movie uses it to full tilt quite well. Fleshtones look excellent, detail is very good and color satuation is very nice - the movie's strong array of colors, especially the costumes the actors wear, look pretty bold. The film also has a good dimensionality to it, but I've seen better - still, it pops out at you just enough to take notice. Unfortunantely, the transfer is plagued by a few problems. The print used is pretty dirty - nicks, blemishes and dirt specks pop up pretty often. Edge enhancment is noticeable, there is some edge haloing and the transfer is a bit soft. Still, it gets the job done and that counts for something.

 

The DVD has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it is pretty good and more or less what I expected (too bad they couldn't stick a DTS track on this DVD - given the short run time of the movie and lack of extras, I'm sure it could have fit). The movie's sound elements are well balanced on the track: dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and the rest (sound effects and music) doesn't get overpowered and sounds just right. The movie uses a lot of music which sounds great on this track - there are 80s tunes and a lot of upbeat pop songs that bring some energy to the track. Theodore Shapiro's score also sounds pretty nice. There are also some good surround effects, many of them subtle - I liked the humming of the airplane before it took off on Donna's first flight, footsteps when Donna and Christine check in before they head to their dorms and Donna's first meeting with Ted in his boathouse, and how we hear the waves and noises from outside - very nice stuff. There's also planes taking off and some slapstick moments that give things a kick or two. Fidelity is high, the dynamics are really strong and there's some subwoofer use here and there. In all, a fine track that does represent the movie nicely. A French 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also on the DVD, as well as English captions and English subtitles.

 

Not much. History Of The Flight Attendant isn't directly related to the movie, but it's a decent 10 minutes nonetheless that helps supplement the film's atmosphere. This full framed featurette features interviews from real flight attendants and stills to give the origins and a bunch of facts of how flight attendants came to be and how their role has expanded over time. It actually is pretty interesting, but some of the interviewees are better than others.

A Journey Inside "View From The Top" is your standard featuerette to promote the movie, and lasts a little over six minutes. With clips from the movie, interviews from Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Kelly Preston, producer Bobby Cohen, producer Matthew Baer and director Bruno Barreto. It's the usual "insightful" fluff piece on making the movie, praise for the cast and crew, how great elements of the movie are... you know the drill.

I thought Music Of "View From The Top" would be a dinky soundtrack promo telling you to buy the CD, but actually, Randy Spendlove (what a last name!) , president of Miramax Motion Picture Music talks about the music on the soundtrack and how the songs relate to the movie. Music video clips of some of the performers are shown, and Spendlove makes some comments. Clips from the movie are on and singer Kaci (who's on the soundtrack) is interviewed. It's fluffy, and yeah, I suppose it's just a longer promo to go out and buy the soundtrack.

There are also Sneak Peaks for the Miramax Gold Collection, "Duplex" and the 2002 Oscar winner "Chicago." The menus are also cute in that annoying kind of way, as selections are named after something airline related.

 

"View From The Top" didn't exactly take off at the box office (Gwyneth Paltrow even called the movie "View From My Ass" - but you wouldn't know that from the DVD's featurette), and as a comedy, it's hard to take seriously. The movie is predictable and pretty one-note, and really is pretty ridiculous. But the movie has a decent 5.1 track, a nice transfer and fluffy supplements. If you liked the movie it's worth a purchase, but if you want to see it, a rental will do or waiting to see it on cable. Personally, I see this as a movie that gets lowered to a cheaper retail price in a few months and a lot of people start buying it then to have a "stupid comedy" in their collection.