View From The Top

2003, Movie, PG-13, 87 mins


Candy-colored fluff wrapped around a story so flimsy it can hardly support the gossamer-thin characterizations and simplistic moral. Small-town girl Donna Jensen (Gwyneth Paltrow) dreams of escaping her Silver Springs, Nev., trailer-park existence, but doesn't have a clue how. Then she spots motivational speaker Sally Weston (Candace Bergen) shilling for her autobiography, "My Life in the Sky," on TV. Sally parlayed a career as a stewardess into a life of fame and luxury, and Donna vows to do the same. After a brief stint at short-run carrier Sierra Airlines, whose stews are big-haired barbies in cocktail waitress get-ups, Donna and her even trashier friend, Christine (Christina Applegate), win spots in the prestigious Royalty Airlines training program. Royalty Airlines, where Sally Weston made her high-flying hopes come true! Under the watchful (lazy) eye of instructor John Whitney (Mike Myers), hardworking Donna aces every class but somehow gets relegated to Royalty's Cleveland-based commuter arm, while dumb-dolly Christine flubs the simplest exercises and gets a prestigious New York route. How unfair, even if Donna does reconnect with the nice guy (Mark Ruffalo) she left behind in Nevada. Soon Donna will face a hard choice: Seize her berth on the coveted "first-class international, Paris" route or ground her jet-set dreams for love. Pity the half-baked fairy tale that doesn't know what it wants to be! A romantic comedy? The romance is half-hearted and the gags are grotesquely exaggerated — Myers's lazy-eye schtick is mortifying, and any movie that can't wring a drop of sleazy amusement value from a knock-down, drag-out cat-fight between Paltrow and Applegate should hang its head in shame. An inspirational tale? The "find your destiny" words are right, but they're undermined by the smarmy "can you believe that tacky hair!" tone. A stylish lark? The costumes and decor are oh-so-swinging '60s-spiffy, but they clash with the modern-day setting, no matter how many times you insist it's a fable. And frankly, the film's nostalgia for the "coffee, tea or me?" era of flying, when stewardesses were fantasy figures in soaring heels and uniforms tailored for bust enhancement rather than utility, is retro in all the wrong ways. Sally Weston's memoir is, after all, essentially a guide to classy gold-digging; for all her self-empowered posturing, she made her money the old-fashioned way — she married it. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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