Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos Areces, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth
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“Then she contacted the beyond through Alex and Benito’s crotches.”
If you don’t hear those words, it’s not a Pedro Almodóvar movie. On that basis, I’m So Excited definitely fits the bill. After years of progressively more mature masterpieces, this airbound comedy sees Pedro revert right back to his juvenile years – a heyday of raunchy chaos and unabashed silliness. Oh yes, it’s un film de Almodóvar all right. The bad news? It’s not a very good one.
Things kick off well with a cheeky cameo from Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, two airport staff who inadvertently break the landing gear on Flight 2549. A few hours later and the plane is stranded mid-air. Business class is in uproar and air stewards Joserra (Cámara), Ulloa (Arévalo) and Fajas (Areces) are trying to distract them.
The passengers in economy? They’ve all been drugged, naturally.
And so pilots Benito and Alex keep circling over Toledo, wrestling with hidden passions – while a middle-aged psychic virgin (Dueñas) predicts the future by rubbing their genitals.
As far as super powers go, it’s up there with Pedro’s best: Antonio Banderas’ gay terrorist in Labyrinth of Passion who can sniff his sexy male target from miles off. But where Labyrinth and other Almodóvars of the same period (the bonkers Pepi, Luci, Bom or the searing Dark Habits) were explosions of liberal subversion in a post-Franco society, I’m So Excited’s naughty farce feels a tad dated. There’s an element of social commentary going on, with a rich banker, a powerful celebrity (Roth) and a hit man all stuck in the cabin trying to escape the uncertain limbo they’re facing, but where you can imagine Buñuel using the claustrophobic location to deliver a scathing slice of wit, this is content to float along without any real substance.
The only bite comes from our three crew members when they sink their teeth into a musical number – the titular track by The Pointer Sisters. That in itself isn’t a problem, but the comedy is sadly scarce in supply. Drinking, dancing and doping their way through the flight, the ultra-camp trio are the highlight of the film, providing the titters that are to be found. Occasionally, the build up of overall stupidity will make you smile but proper laughs are rare – a problem not helped by one scene, which (in a very un-Pedro move) seems to make light of rape.
Almodóvar is at his best when balancing the absurd with the serious, but it’s nice to see the director cut loose after the intense(ly brilliant) The Skin I Live In. He’s still got a deft touch behind the camera – from a repeated use of dutch tilt to a sequence where he quietly pans around an empty departure lounge – but the script, never quite light enough or heavy enough, runs out of fuel soon after take-off. An airplane disaster movie of the worst kind.