A classic example of When Bad Movies Happen to Good People. Don’t get me wrong, this is not just a bad movie, it’s a dreadful one. It seems only reasonable to expect that an assemblage of talent that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mike Myers, Candice Bergen and Rob Lowe might produce something that’s at least mildly diverting. The problem is there are only six of them and they’re up against newcomer Eric Wald’s screenplay. It’s no contest.
That screenplay is so bad that a standing army couldn’t defeat it. It’s the Doomsday Machine of screenplays — and it’s not helped by Bruno Barreto’s incredibly flaccid direction. I think the movie’s a romantic comedy, but I’m not completely certain, since the laughs are few and far between and the romance unconvincing — the sort of thing that would have been called old-fashioned in 1935.
Gwyneth Paltrow (what was she thinking?) plays a woman from a trailer-park background in a place called Silver Springs, Nev., who dreams of escaping her lowly roots by pursuing that most glamorous of callings, airline hostess (the screenplay seems to think this is 1965 when the job held a soupcon of glamour). Not surprisingly — especially since Paltrow wears eye makeup that would better suit someone standing on a street corner, asking, “Got any gum? Want a date?” than on a first-class air hostess — the best she can get is a gig on a crummy commuter line. Ah, but all is not lost, since she meets handsome co-pilot Rob Lowe (what was he thinking?), who tells her that she’s on her way to the top — assuring her, “I’m a pilot. It’s my job to know where people are going.” (Mr. Wald actually got paid good money to write that line — and, unfortunately, he has others just as good waiting to spring on the hapless viewer.) Better still, Paltrow’s character bumps into (they “meet cute” in an awkward setup where her bikini strap breaks) super-nice Mark Ruffalo (who seems to be thinking, “Maybe if I curl my lip a lot people will think I look more like Elvis than Donny Osmond”).
Complications arise on her trip to the top — including, but not limited to a duplicitous friend played by Christina Applegate (what was the woman thinking) and a not very funny, one-eyed flight attendant instructor played by Mike Myers (what was the man … ah, the hell with it). The closest thing to funny in the film (besides a pointed joke involving a series of photos of Myers posing with Sammy Davis Jr., Marty Feldman and Peter Falk — one that was either lost on the audience I saw this with, or perhaps they’d just forgotten how to laugh by this point — is Candice Bergen. Oh, sure, it isn’t much more than Murphy Brown as air-hostess emeritus, but it’s still closer to funny than anything else in the movie.
The whole thing ultimately becomes one of those idiotic affairs where our Gwyneth must choose between being a top air hostess and … yes … being with the man she loves. The outcome is predictable, but the zither that really cooks the goose is the scene that’s meant to take the mickey out of her decision (ludicrous doesn’t begin to cover it — maybe it’s a homage to Doris Day landing an airliner in 1965’s Julie).
If only this movie were even stupid funny, it wouldn’t be so bad, but alas. Time and time again, the script and the direction misjudge scene after scene. The catfight between Paltrow and Applegate (once Paltrow finally realizes that you just can’t trust anyone who’d steal soap out of a guest bathroom — an important life lesson) isn’t in the least bit funny. It isn’t even played for humor — until the very end of the sequence when it looks like someone remembered this is a comedy.
There are two nice directorial touches — one when the film enlarges from a cramped home-movie format to wide-screen (Robert Redford got there first with The Horse Whisperer) and another when Paltrow rises into view on an escalator in her air hostess finery. But so what? They’re not enough to make slogging your way through this worthwhile. It’s not surprising that this thing’s been sitting on a shelf in the Miramax vaults forever. It’s not surprising that it was continually hacked down (even losing the “A” from its original title, A View From the Top) to its present 85 minutes. They didn’t manage to make it good. They only managed to make it shorter — a small mercy, but a mercy all the same.