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View from the Top (March 18/03)

Gwyneth Paltrow's presence in View from the Top is easily the most puzzling aspect of the movie. Here's an actress who's won an Oscar, appeared in several prestige pictures, and proven that she's far more talented than the majority of her contemporaries. Yet here she is, appearing in a cheesy comedy that feels like a relic from the 1980s - and not in a good way, either.

Paltrow stars as Donna Jensen, a young woman trapped in a small town with dreams of making it big. She's unsure of what to do with her life until she sees Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), a famous flight attendant, talking about her wonderful experiences in the sky. She immediately signs up to work at a local airline, where she meets Christine (Christina Applegate) and Sherry (Kelly Preston). After a few months working there, Donna convinces her two friends to fly to New York and apply for jobs with a much more prestigious outfit, Royalty Airlines. And though she does eventually end up working for the airline, she's soon going to be stuck choosing between her jet-set career and a local man named Ted (Mark Ruffalo) that she's fallen for.

View from the Top is one of those follow-your-dreams type movies, along the lines of Flashdance, that seemed to crop up all-too-frequently in the '80s. The ultra-colorful set design and brisk pace keeps the film from ever becoming an all-out bore, but Eric Wald's simplistic screenplay essentially guarantees that the audience will have no trouble figuring out where everything is going. There are no surprises here, and some aspects of the movie are laughably predictable. The relationship between Donna and Ted, for example, takes the well-worn path of having the two seem happy, forcing them to break up, and then re-uniting them just in time for the end credits. It's incredibly silly, but in all fairness, the rest of the film is packed with similarly old-school cliches - so the whole romance thing does fit into the big picture. There is exactly one sequence that doesn't feel like it's right out of a how-to book for romantic comedies: a truly bizarre cat fight between Paltrow and Applegate. During this completely unexpected scene, the film finally began to become something other than a pastiche of stereotypical elements - but the fight ends and View from the Top gets right back onto the path most taken.

The film is peppered with an exceedingly eclectic supporting cast, with Mike Myers the most obvious standout. Playing a legendary flight instructor named John Whitney, Myers delivers a performance that essentially blows everyone else out of the water. Myers' presence provides the film with its only laughs and his character (as comically over-the-top as he is) is certainly the most interesting figure in the film. Equally good is Mark Ruffalo, proving that he is indeed one of the finest new actors out there today - the problem is, he's imbuing this character with far more energy and gravity than the script calls for. Someone should've told him that View from the Top isn't exactly You Can Count On Me, a much better movie on so many different levels. And as for Paltrow, she looks like she's having fun here; perhaps she needed a rest from all the serious flicks she's been appearing in over the last few years. Hopefully she's gotten it out of her system and can now resume her career.

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