View from the Top (2003)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Workplace Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 21, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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A talented cast whiffs the tonal ball badly with this comedy misfire that takes a bizarrely off-kilter view of female empowerment. Although ostensibly set in modern times, the film plays like a relic from an era when "women's lib" was a new idea confined to college campuses and best-seller lists, when the open-busted, zero-G hemline of the stewardess or the rigidly starched white uniform of the nurse were the best professional garb to which a working girl could aspire. How strange then, that the heroine of this retro-misogynist fantasy should be played by a paragon of latter-Hollywood fem-power, Gwyneth Paltrow, the icon who "has it all," hitting the trifecta of ultra-successful career, rich and good-looking lovers, and actual talent and taste. Which is probably why, as a trailer-park dreamer, Paltrow is surprisingly convincing and nimble-witted, even if at times the actress cannot hide her disdain for the weak material. Faring even better is Mike Myers, the only real reason to see the film, in a supporting role that he cheekily tackles with self-referential zeal, winking (sort of literally) at the audience and his cast mates in an almost-successful attempt to persuade everyone that the whole shebang is a mirthful, knowing put-on. It's only when Myers is offscreen -- unfortunately, all too often -- that perplexed befuddlement reasserts itself. What world is this, after all, where being a stewardess is still glamorous, where a veteran stew can become a best-selling author and role model (Candice Bergen, wooden as ever), when an airline's training coordinator can be witlessly but sincerely referred to as "legendary"? Characters appear then disappear (hello and a quick buh-bye to Rob Lowe, Kelly Preston, and a wretchedly offensive gay stereotype played by the poor, abused Josh Malina, who hopelessly minces and sashays through a murderously unamusing part). Subplots are hinted at, then dismissed without so much as a fare-thee-well (Whatever happens to the protagonist's blue collar family? You decide -- the film doesn't care!). Stewardess uniforms recall not any particular era in history but rather the haute couture of those paragons of style, The Jetsons. A View from the Top (2003) is a god-awful mess of faux hilarity that not even an amped-up Myers can rescue, so pitiful is its deranged script and director Bruno Barreto's otherworldly interpretation thereof. If you want to make a comedy, remember to make it resonant, containing some recognizable semblance of reality, and especially remember to bring the funny. That's procedure.