In the next installation of rewatching movies that are themed to the piece I’m editing, we had a book about a stewardess in the 1930s. I present to you View from the Top, also known as the Gwyneth Paltrow flight attendant movie. Crucially, this one also features Christina Applegate.
The year was 2003. I was still in college, but I had TRAVELED, man. I was worldly. And I still dig this movie. Check out the cast:
Right away, we see John Francis Daley, the kid from Freaks and Geeks, as Gwynnie’s stepbrother, Rodney. He has like one line. Her high school sweetheart is Marc Blucas, post-Buffy (we know how I feel about Riley). He breaks up with Gwynnie in a birthday card, which is almost as good as a post-it (“Well, they don’t make breaking-up cards.”)
Presciently, Gwynnie is working in the Big Lots luggage department. “I’ve actually never been on an airplane, but, if I ever get to go on one, this thing is gonna follow me around like my own little dog.” She quits her job when Riley dumps her (“You’re a small-town girl. You belong here.”) and is sitting in a bar when fate calls to her from the TV.
Sally Weston (Candace Bergen!) is from west Texas, billed as “the world’s most famous flight attendant,” and author of My Life in the Sky. “Sally Weston represents an ideal of poise and beauty and accomplishment that every flight attendant should strive to achieve.” I still think about Sally’s nostalgia whenever I walk through an airport: “It was different then. People dressed for flights.”
Sally provides Gwynnie with her mantra: Paris. First Class. International. “It’s the only route to happiness.”
Along the way, we meet Kelly Preston, who once worked for Pan Am but can’t pass an interview for Royalty: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Rob Lowe, ex machina, as Co-pilot Steve: “You’re going places…I’m a pilot, it’s my job to know where people are going.” He doesn’t show up again in the movie, but makes quite an impression...
Gwynnie gets her own trainee attendent by the name of Christine (Christina Applegate!), and the three girls enjoy tanning at the houseboat on Lake Havasu (location of the original London Bridge—I have pictures from a trip I took there around the time this movie came out). Here they meet Ted of lake patrol, a terribly tan Mark Ruffalo.
The classism becomes overt when some fancy flight attendants have to make a pit stop at Laughlin, Sierra Airlines’ hub. They flash Gucci and Vuitton, namedrop Chanel and Vuitton, and debate whether the guy in Rome or the guy in London bought the jewelry. Then they swan off, complaining of needing a flea dip, leaving our heroine to her Toblerone (which I always thought was super classy—the Vuitton of the candy aisle, if you will).
They take a road trip to San Francisco, which I still think of every time I hear “Living on a Prayer,” and meet the legendary John Whitney (Mike Meyers!): “There’s no business like strabismus.” Donna and Christine get invited to the training center, which I thought was in San Francisco but must actually be in Dallas, since that’s where Sally Weston’s Rancho Esmerelda home is located. We meet fellow trainee Stacey Dash, and get some excellent grammar jokes from Mike Meyers: “An easy road comma don’t expect one” and “You put the wrong emph-ah-sis on the wrong syll-ah-ble.”
Shit happens, and Gwynnie gets assigned to Royalty Express, based in Cleveland, which is where Mark Ruffalo has returned to attend law school. She’s comparing High Style vs. Cheap & Basic outfits in a magazine when he approaches her at a coffee shop. Yay! They decide “Cleveland is like this great big giant waiting room” (gate would be more appropriate?) and fall in love while they’re killing time.
Christine stops through Cleveland (“I’m going for a more classic look. It goes better with Chanel.”) and turns out to be horrible. Gwynnie gets to retake her test, which Mike Meyers does not find fair: “So, you’ll be happy to know you got a perfect score. First time in seven years. The last time was me.” But he tells her to go do the damn thing, to do it for those of us who can’t.
Gwynnie sheds her never-believable white trash skin and emerges a swan in a green and blue uniform…and the shoes! Christine attacks her on the plane (“Someone had to put you in your place.”) You’d think it’d be funnier to watch Gwyneth Paltrow get beat up, but the funniest part is Applegate flipping the bird as security hauls her away. Gwynnie goes on to lead a fabulous but lonely life in New York, when she’s not jetting around the globe. She sits alone in Paris in the same outfit from the magazine, though it’s unclear whether it’s High Style or Cheap & Basic.
Just when I thought we were out of cast members to get excited about, there’s Sex and the City‘s face girl Nina Katz (Nadia Dajani) as Paige. Speaking of pages (meh), Sally finds Gwynnie all-aloney in the Royalty lounge on Christmas Day in Paris and tells her: “Donna, I don’t think you read carefully enough.” You need a co-pilot, girl!
I had completely forgotten how this movie ended, and while I do regret the aviators I distinctly remember wearing around this time, the twist gives Rob Lowe’s appearance more gravitas and reminds us that we can dream of flying even higher.