There a time when a "Best Actress" Oscar was a sign that you had arrived, that you were now officially recognised as a serious actress who henceforward would star in serious films. I cannot, for example, imagine such previous recipients of the honour as Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor or Meryl Streep appearing in something like "View from the Top". Gwyneth Paltrow clearly takes a different view of her career progression. According to her interpretation, the duties of an Oscar winner include (apart from giving a confused, rambling and lachrymose acceptance speech) starring in a sexy dolly-bird role in some lightweight bubblegum picture, presumably in order to show the world that you still have a sense of humour and do not take yourself too seriously. (See also Halle Berry, who celebrated her Oscar win by becoming a Bond girl).
The film is sometimes described as a romantic comedy, but unlike most rom-coms it concentrates far more on the girl than on the boy. Donna Jensen is a young woman from a small town who sets out to fulfill her dream of becoming an air hostess. Her first job is with a small, ultra-low-cost airline operating on a wing and a prayer, but she later applies for a job with the upmarket Royalty Airlines and is accepted on their training programme. She seems at first to be making good progress, but after receiving a disappointingly low score in her final exam fails to achieve the assignment she had been hoping for to an international route. Instead, she is assigned to domestic routes out of Cleveland, Ohio for Royalty Express, the firm's budget subsidiary. In the airline world, it would appear, some jobs are regarded as more prestigious than others- First Class is better than Standard Class, international routes are better than domestic ones and no-frills budget flights are the lowest of the low.
A sub-plot concerns Donna's rivalry with her bitchy, dishonest colleague Christine Montgomery. Eventually Christine is sacked from the airline for stealing and Donna discovers the reason for her low score in the test- Christine cheated by switching Donna's paper with her own. Donna is allowed to take the test again and scores top marks, following which she is assigned to the most prestigious route of all- First Class, International, Paris. It is interesting to note that even though a sizable proportion of the American population have recently taken to jeering at France as a nation of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", Hollywood still persists with its traditional cultural cringe towards all things French. This is one of a number of recent films- others include "Revolutionary Road" and "The Devil Wears Prada"- in which the French capital is depicted as the epitome of culture, far more stylish and sophisticated than any US city.
Despite her apparent success in achieving her dream, however, Donna is still not happy. Her switch to international routes has meant the break-up of her relationship with her boyfriend, Ted, who lives in Cleveland, and she realises that he means more to her than her job. She therefore abandons her job and returns to Cleveland, where they succeed in rekindling their romance. As in "The Devil Wears Prada", the moral is that success in one's love life is more important than success in one's career.
Paltrow herself described the film as a "terrible movie", suggesting that she only took the role for the money. (Apparently she is unable to survive on the miserable pittance she receives for more intellectual fare like "Sylvia"). Indeed, she also used a more earthy Anglo-Saxon term about it, although decency- and IMDb's automatic profanity detector- forbid a direct quotation. Actually, I have to disagree with her. I have seen plenty of really terrible films, and this is not one of them. There is little that is positively dreadful about it- the acting is of a reasonable standard and the storyline is fairly diverting. There are one or two amusing moments, like the laughs at the expense of the dreadful Sierra Airlines and Mike Myers' turn as the manic cross-eyed training instructor. Unfortunately, there is also not much about the film that is positively good- certainly, for example, nothing like Meryl Streep's brilliant performance in "The Devil Wears Prada", which saved that film from becoming no more than a glossier version of "View from the Top". The film is enjoyable enough while it lasts, but doesn't remain in the mind for very long afterwards. In the film's own terms it is not quite Sierra Airways, but definitely Royalty Express rather than First Class International. 5/10
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