Richard Ayoade – Ayoade on Top (2019)
Back in 2003 director Bruno Barreto released a comedy drama by the name of View from the Top starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo. I know, me neither. Apparently, the film told the story of Donna Jensen, a small town girl, who dreams of bigger and better things from life and sets her sights on being a flight attendant. There are worse careers, Donna. A cursory glance at IMDB finds the film has an average of 5.2/10 which is concerning and the story does not get better over on Rotten Tomatoes where it has a rating of 14%, easily certifiable as rotten, and in danger of being deposited on a remote island never to be seen again. Clearly, this film is a hopeless case, right? Enter: Richard Ayoade, British comedian and writer, somewhat quirky but also very witty, who is here to make us think again about this seemingly forgotten film and to argue that it’s actually pretty damn good.
In Ayoade on Top, Ayoade offers a case study of View from the Top and argues, in his own peculiar way, that the film actually has many merits. It’s by no means perfect but it’s certainly a film that he believes warrants repeat viewings, something he has done. A lot. I know this because Ayoade makes sure we’re aware of the fact. He takes us through the film chronologically, dissecting some of the key moments, offering the kind of discussions the likes of Citizen Kane still warrant today. Ayoade gradually builds his defence for Bruno Bareto’s film, conceding that there are some issues but overall it is far better than the majority seem to be stating. When Ayoade does question the weaknesses in the film, he is particularly amusing and I still can’t shake the image of soap shaped like aeroplanes and how this one element sent him off on a random digression. Ayoade also has time to mention other films, including another Gwyneth Patrow film, Sliding Doors. I’ll never think of John Hannah the same again after reading this.
Ayoade on Top is either a work of genius or a pointless foolhardy venture and it’s down to the individual reader to decide. Maybe it’s a bit of both. That’s probably what Ayoade intended. I listened to the book on Audible, read by Ayoade himself, and would wholeheartedly recommend this format. It’s an interesting project that he has taken on here with a film I had never heard of prior to reading this. I’ll be honest, it’s not the sort of film that would have inspired me to rush out and watch it but thanks to Ayoade I do feel slightly tempted to have a look at it now, and not just for the aeroplane soap. Enjoyment of the book will depend on your comedic tastes and whether Ayoade is someone you consider funny. Fans of the comedian will find a lot to enjoy here, whether you have seen View from the Top or not. If you are not a fan of Ayoade you may wonder what the fuss is about or indeed what the point of the book is in the first place.
Verdict: A funny and thoughtful appraisal of a critically panned film with Ayoade’s wit remaining undiminished.