There is a cautionary tale from old Hollywood about ticking off the head of your studio. John Gilbert, a huge star of the silent screen, once punched out the lights of Louis B Mayer. Now, in all honesty, Jack was under a little emotional strain having just been stood up at the altar by Greta Garbo, and Louis had it coming after having made a disparaging remark that doesn’t bear going into here, but the downward spiral of Gilbert’s career can with some precision be traced back to that punch. Afterwards, Mayer wouldnt give him plum roles, nor would he let him work for another studio. Forget the fiction about sound killing his career, Gilbert’s temper was the blame.
And why am I telling you this story? Ive just seen VIEW FROM THE TOP and I have to wonder what its star, Gwyneth Paltrow, did to Harvey Weinstein, the head of Miramax. Up until now, Gwynnie was Harvey’s golden girl, playing showy roles in prestige films. Whatever it was, it must have been very, very bad for her to be trapped in this hopeless piece of dreck. Let me put it this way, in one key scene Gwynnie pours out her heart to co-star Candace Bergen and the close-up reveals that the make-up person has used two different colored pencils to color in Gwynnie’s eyebrows. It’s not just that the colors don’t match, they dont match >within< one of the brows, creating a piebald effect that, frankly, was the most interesting thing in the flick. That’s the level of quality control, professionalism, and attention to detail were working with here.
I suppose I should outline the plot, which involves the mismatched Paltrow as a small-town girl achieving her dream of becoming a flight attendant only to discover that it all means nothing without true love (Mark Ruffalo criminally wasted). She’s inspired on her road to success by Bergen’s character, an ex-flight attendant who married well and wrote a pop psychology best-seller about following your dreams. Bergen’s dream, by the way, is to have a huge, well-stocked walk-in closet and the biggest hair in the room. There’s really nothing in any of it worth dwelling on, so flat is the writing, so plastic are the performances, and so disjointed is the plot as it lurches from insipid satire to sappy romance with pit stops along the way in several other genres as it flails for a substance that it will never achieve. That is at least partly due to the drastic editing that left only 87 minutes of screen time and was obviously done in a desperate attempt to get something out to theaters that wouldn’t cause people who paid money to see this mess to riot. I’m not sure the editors have succeeded, but to judge from the outtakes, many from deleted scenes, which play under the closing credits, the creative choices of what to leave in were sound. And that’s a sad commentary on the proceedings. It did make me think, though, that if the same creative effort that was expended on the final edit had been put into making the film in the first place, the results might not have been a classic, but it wouldnt suck the will to live from its innocent audience.
VIEW FROM THE TOP will, mercifully, disappear without a trace, banished to dusty shelf at your local video store, and to the 2am slot of your local cable provider. Probably in the time it takes you to read this and from whence it will not emerge until it’s time for it to get what it deserves from the Razzies in 2004.