Bruno Barreto

 Bruno Barreto
View from the Top is an "inspirational-satiric-romantic-comedy," manipulative and unfunny from start to finish, but it has the strangest pedigree in Hollywood. It was written as a Masters thesis project by first timer Eric Wald, directed by Brazilian ex-pat Bruno Barreto (Four Days in September) and even though it's an 87-minute piffle of a movie, it was shot in epic cinemascope (just like Lawrence of Arabia). And for some reason, the catfight between Gwyneth Paltrow and Christina Applegate was choreographed by martial arts legend Sammo Hung. This story of a white trash stewardess from Nevada who dreams of working the transatlantic flight from New York to Paris has an essential condescension that the movie never shakes (the intrinsic joke is that the lower classes don't dream of being jet-setters — they just dream of serving them champagne on first-class flights). And Paltrow, who's usually a charmer, gives a heartless, paint-by-numbers performance. She tramps it up good in micro-mini-skirts and excessive eye shadow, but all I saw was a spoiled actress playing dress-up. She doesn't love her character, she loves kitsch. Even the bits of oddness on the margins are ill-conceived. Mike Myers is more desperate than funny in an extended, improvised cameo, and Mark Ruffalo (Gwynnie's love interest) ends up playing the traditional "chick role" (he chooses hearth and home over career and he patiently waits for his love to return to him), but despite this interesting reversal, there's an intrinsic chauvinism at work — the movie ends with a wink to the audience that undercuts the feminist message. Worst of all, Paltrow's shrill character becomes less endearing as the movie goes on. She's a keener and a know-it-all who rats on her skanky friend (Applegate) for stealing her exam. It's a bad sign when a "rags to riches" story creates misplaced sympathy. I was rooting for the skank. (Alliance Atlantis)