She Elevates the Material She's Given: 'Gwyneth Paltrow: 4 Film Collection'

View from the Top (2003)

The Oscar winning actress may not have a trademark or especially impressive body of work, but these movies prove just how underrated Gwyneth Paltrow is.

View from the Top

Director: Douglas McGrath, John Madden, Don Roos, Bruno Barreto
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Mark Ruffalo
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: 2012-04-03

There was a moment during the early 2000s when it seemed like Gwyneth Paltrow would become the queen of Hollywood. Blessed with the kind of timeless beauty that always elicits comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, as well as lucky enough to have been born in one of Tinseltown’s most influential families -- her father was the late director Bruce Paltrow and her mother is the multi awarded stage and television actress Blythe Danner (Steven Spielberg is her godfather) -- Paltrow’s incursion into the movies seemed nothing if not inevitable.

After small turns in forgettable movies and a stint as Brad Pitt’s girlfriend, in 1998 the young starlet had a year the likes of which others only dream of (similar to what Jessica Chastain had in 2011) appearing in five high profile movies throughout the year, all culminating with the role that would win her the Best Actress Oscar. After winning, Paltrow’s career seems to have stalled as she got married and became a full time mother, now only gracing movie screens sporadically.

United not by themes but by the presence of the lead actress, this boxset shows that Lionsgate needs to make the most out of the catalog titles it inherited from Miramax. At one point Paltrow was the poster child for the Weinstein brothers’ studio, headlining some of its biggest projects and becoming part of the wave of performers that flourished under their sponsorship (others included Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Renee Zellweger) but unlike her peers, it can’t be said that Paltrow ever became known for a particular trademark.

At first she was thought to be a new princess of period pieces, playing ingenues in corsets with an assured charm and grace that made some people think she was British. In Douglas McGrath’s Emma, Paltrow plays the title role of Emma Woodhouse, a well intentioned young woman who decides she’ll become a matchmaker. Adapted from Jane Austen’s lovely novel, the film went by slightly unnoticed, given that just the year before it was released, the novel had been adapted for modern audiences in Clueless which became a ‘90s pop culture landmark. In spite of this, McGrath’s adaptation is just as significant because it’s one of the greatest Austen reworks and Paltrow is absolutely luminous as the heroine.

Emma (1996)

After losing the lead in Titanic, Paltrow ended up starring in Shakespeare in Love, her Oscar winning turn which is also the centerpiece of this collection. Tom Stoppard’s inventive screenplay tries to figure out how William Shakespeare (played with effervescent charm by Joseph Fiennes) ended up writing Romeo and Juliet, and so creates the fictitious character of Viola de Lesseps, played by Paltrow. The movie itself is a joyous, clever comedy but it can be said that it’s a showcase for its leading actress.

Up to that point Paltrow had starred in movies for which she was just too bright and she ended up looking too affected and even bored. In Shakespeare in Love she found a movie that truly matched her wit and effortless luminosity. Watching her play four different characters isn’t especially fascinating from a technical point of view (she’s certainly no Meryl Streep), but she shines with such sensuality and joy that you truly believe her Viola did indeed inspire Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

After her Oscar win, Paltrow laid low for a few years until she starred in Bounce, Don Roos’ tale of star-crossed lovers and messed up fate that has Paltrow play a widow who falls in love with a man (Ben Affleck) who might be indirectly responsible for her husband’s death. The film has its ups and downs, mostly because Affleck can’t muster the energy to play someone who would deserve this woman’s love, problem which seems to be the major issue in Paltrow’s career.

When she’s good, she's absolutely brilliant, when she’s bad, she just seems deeply uninterested, as is the case in View from the Top, a movie that takes the concept of Legally Blonde and moves it to the skies. Paltrow plays Donna, a small town girl who dreams of becoming a flight attendant. The film follows her as she goes through airline-school (Candice Bergen and Mike Myers are her professors) falls in love (with an extremely bland Mark Ruffalo) and ultimately realizes that home is where the heart is. The film is uneven and sloppy, but in some moments it announced Paltrow's ability to be extremely funny, something that she would fulfill almost a decade later on in Glee.

Bounce (2000)

For those looking examples for of Paltrow’s finest work, this boxset might not be specially satisfying. View from the Top could’ve been switched for Proof or Possessions for example, but as it stands it’s decent evidence that Paltrow is one of the most underrated working actresses. See the way in which she elevates the material she’s given, there are several scenes in Bounce that could be cringe worthy for example, but she plays them with such a self effacing dignity that you know she’s in the joke and you laugh with her.

Extras in this boxset are exactly the same as each of the individual DVD releases, with Shakespeare in Love containing the richest roster of bonus features. Buy this set if you’re a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan/completist and don’t own a couple of these movies.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.