March 31, 2003 -- "View From the Top" is a refreshingly light romantic comedy. It is kind of a throwback to films made 50 years ago when times were simpler and people were more innocent. It is the perfect kind of escapist movie to see in a time of war and terrorist attacks.
Gwyneth Paltrow of "Possession" stars as Donna Jensen, a woman who longs to escape from the dull small town in Texas where she grew up. One day she sees a famous airline stewardess, Sally Weston (played by Candice Bergen of "Sweet Home Alabama"), on a TV talk show hawking her book and decides to become a stewardess. It seems like the perfect way to get out of town. She starts out on a small commuter airline, where, after a hilariously bad first flight, she eventually makes friends and meets a boyfriend, Ted (Mark Ruffalo of "Windtalkers"). Rather than get serious with Ted, she decides to move on and gets a job with a bigger company called Royalty Airlines. The training scenes, with instructor John Whitney (Mike Myers of "Austin Powers") are surreal and hilarious.
Then she has a setback. Instead of getting the coveted international flights she wants, she gets stuck on a commuter branch of Royalty, based in Cleveland. She can't figure out what went wrong. She thought she aced the tests at stewardess school. She vows to reapply as soon as her mandatory year on commuter duty is completed. Her luck isn't all bad, however, she meets up with Ted again. He has moved to Cleveland to resume law school, inspired by Donna's determination to succeed. Once again, however, Donna's drive to succeed threatens to end their romance. Here's where the plot gets into the sticky business of how two people with different ambitions can make their romance work. Compromises are made, and these compromises may not conform to some people's notions of political correctness. I think the movie's solution to this problem is a pretty good one, if not entirely believable.
The talented Paltrow is perfectly cast in the starring role of this film. A big surprise is Candice Bergen who is marvelous as the wise ex-stewardess author. She's smart and kindly in this role, after being relegated to portraying cold, evil characters in recent years. Myers is very funny as usual playing the, goofy, strict training director of the stewardess school. The look of the film is amazing. The color schemes and uniforms look like something out of the 1960s. It is like a parallel universe where there is no talk of terrorist attacks and other post-9/11 impacts on airlines (including massive layoffs and bankruptsies). It is a picture of an America in happier times.
The direction by Bruno Barreto ("Bossa Nova") is steady and the camerawork by Affonso Beato ("Ghost World") is sharp. The production design by Dan Davis ("You've Got Mail") and art direction by Elizabeth Lapp ("A.I.") is first rate. This is a good, light, escapist fantasy. Some critics don't like it because it isn't depressing enough and it isn't exactly politically correct, but who cares? It rates a B.
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