Something tells me if you look close, you'll see fingerprints all over View From the Top. You might even spot those cute perforated marks, the kind that come from dull scissors given to kindergarten students. And glue, you could probably see glue and paste, and a staple or two, holding the celluloid together. And grease stains from late-night pizza runs, and powdered-sugar smears left from doughnut breaks at sunrise.
So torturously assembled, so obviously sweated, is this not-so-new Gwyneth Paltrow comedy that you should be surprised if the film itself does not burn up in the projector. If it doesn't: I recommend a quiet prayer for spontaneous combustion.
Some movies arrive looking battered and bruised, the result of re-editing, and re-re-editing, and re-thinking, and much sighing. View From the Top, which has been sitting around since early 2001, has obviously had more work than the Jackson family. This is a comedy wasteland. Watching it is like engaging in an awkward conversation of dead spots, forced laughs, and inane small talk.
“I'm in law school.”
“Oh, that's so great.”
“It's unbelievable, huh?”
Cut to the next scene.
Granted that was not intended to be funny, but the tone is so bizarre it's hard to tell. One plot point turns on the revelation that another character stole soap, and yet Gwyneth's sad eyes tells us the moment is not satire. There is one good joke. Mike Myers has a cameo as a flight-attendant instructor with crossed eyes. That's not the funny part, although it is a gag beaten into the dirt by a riffing Myers, trading on audience affection the way Dom DeLuise used to expect a laugh for just showing up. The funny part comes when the camera pans across his office and we see Myers posing with a veritable hall-of-fame of walleyed stars like Sammy Davis, Jr., and Marty Feldman.
That's it. The rest tells the story of a small-town Nevada woman (Paltrow) who reads the memoir of a super-famous airline flight attendant and decides her dream is to land the New York-to-Paris route for a major airline, see the world, and serve caviar and champagne to the first-class cabin.
The first half is full of jokes about Paltrow's big hair and tight cheetah-print tops, meant to cue us to laugh at her naivete, and the shallowness of a dream that involves serving others. There's a love interest played by Mark Ruffalo. Paltrow must decide between going for her dreams or schlepping with Ruffalo in Cleveland, described by screenwriting rookie Eric Wald as “just like Paris, only there's Lake Erie, everyone speaks English, and the people are 30 pounds overweight.”
View From the Top drips with condescension for the working class, for the audience, for the world screenwriter Eric Wald might find if he looked beyond the video store counter. It is made even uglier by its Botox-induced sunny demeanor and Paltrow's unwillingness to play dumb. Then you stare dumbfounded when the second half, after snickering and equating happiness with a closet of clothes, asks us to take her dreams seriously. We know this because it ends with Journey's cheese-ball “Don't Stop,” and not even for a cheap laugh.
Wald is not an alien. The production notes say he's from San Francisco, and was discovered by producers at a college screenwriting contest that should cease and desist immediately. To be fair, it's not all his fault. So many hands tossed this about it's hard to say where the blame lies. But why anyone thought the script was clever to begin with is a mystery. You can only guess that Miramax hoped for a spark of charisma.
The director is Bruno Barreto, best known for the foreign-language Oscar nominee Four Days in September. Every few minutes he tries to disguise the lack of brains by dropping in a new generic pop song that makes the film come off like a madman screaming: “This is fun, right? Fun!”
How bad is it? The capper is when George Kennedy shows up for, oh, five seconds as a passenger and no one involved seems aware that he was in Airport and that there might be some satire to pull from this. One time I sat for three hours on an airport tarmac, waiting for my plane to take off. The air conditioning was off, and an infant beside me was screaming. Compared to View From the Top, I remember that fondly.