Must a movie be “good?” Is it not enough to see Joshua Malina (character actor extraordinaire) playing a homophobic stereotype alongside Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow?
I’m inclined to say that it is. At the very least, the unlikely pairing is enough to make Bruno Barreto’s View From The Top an entertaining relic of the early aughts. The 2003 romantic comedy is not well-constructed—at best, it’s cheesy, and at worst, it’s a hodge-podge of tropes smashed into a tight 90 minutes. The movie is carried by the acting of stars far too good for this project. But boy, is it fun to watch! That’s right, everyone—welcome back to Oeuvre Reviews, where I attempt to review everything the formidable Josh Malina has ever appeared in.
In typical rom-com fashion, the movie follows spunky small-town girl Donna Jensen (Gwyneth Paltrow) in her quest to shed her small-townness and realize her big-town dreams. After being suddenly dumped by her bummy, pedestrian boyfriend (Marc Blucas), Donna finds comfort and career as a flight attendant. As she climbs the stewardess ladder (and who knew such a thing existed?), Donna must conquer a back-stabbing best friend (Christina Applegate), the pressures of living up to the expectations of her mentor (Candice Bergen), and one of the most frightening things of all—a long-distance relationship.
View From The Top is formulaic and trite, which is probably why I liked it so much. It ticks all of my boxes: Career-driven female character? Check. Sweet, Midwestern-born love interest (Mark Ruffalo) who welcomes her into his family? Check. Catfight scene, kooky side characters, Josh Malina being delightful? Check, check, and double check. It’s trying incredibly hard to be one of those chick-flicks that’s an instant classic (think 27 Dresses or Legally Blonde) and, although it failed miserably upon its release, I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It may not be the most original movie, but View From the Top is fun!
Paltrow is acting her heart out, doing her best with a script that isn’t much better or worse than that of any other rom-com. Same goes for Mark Ruffalo, as heartthrob-worthy as he was in 13 Going on 30. The chemistry between the two is compelling, and the resolution to their love story made me literally shriek (apologies to my next door neighbor) with happiness. The cast as a whole is immensely talented, bringing a third dimension to characters that were clearly written to lay flat on the page.
No one exemplifies this better than my mentor and muse, Josh Malina. He brings every bit of his charm and characteristic froggy flair to his role as Donna’s gay best friend, Randy. Sporting a fun and flirty mullet and several tight, shiny shirts, Malina delivers his sassy one-liners with the knowing snark required of him. Is the concept of the GBF problematic? Yes. Does the character walk the line of offensive and just-a-little-troubling? Certainly. Randy sometimes comes off as an example of the “predatory gay” trope, and his many witticisms are tinged with flamboyant stereotypes. But frankly, I was surprised at how little Malina relied on limp-wristed clichés in his portrayal and pleased with the lack of homophobic malice that wouldn’t be out of place in an aughts-era script (perhaps Glee or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, to name just a few). In his few minutes of screen time, Malina manages to make do with what he’s given. He makes the boring banter seem snappy, proving that he can flip the script with the best of them, and manages to make trite advice seem heartfelt in a touching scene when Randy comforts Donna. His performance, while not astonishing, is proof of how a good actor can make a bad script entertaining.
Homophobic stereotypes and all, View From The Top is still an entertaining ride. Like many of the things I’ve reviewed in this series, it’s a combination of fun tropes and not-so-fun relics of Y2K society. It’s a charmingly nostalgic example of the dying breed of rom-coms that don’t pretend to be more than they are, that accept that to be cliche is to be successful. However, it also serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of representation, and how far we still have to go.
And with that, dear Nass readers, I send you on your own perusal of Josh Malina’s oeuvre. Is this the last Oeuvre Review? Who can say? But with the vacation that lies ahead, I hope you’ll watch at least one of Malina’s works. Whether in a soapy political drama like Scandal or a snappy sitcom like Sports Night, Malina shines in every role he’s given. Whatever you choose to watch, I promise it’ll be worth it.