The scattered tender moments are constantly elbowed aside by the gags, which are tastier and easily digestible.
I’m So Excited
Returning to his absurdist comedy roots after taking years off, Pedro Almodóvar keeps it (mostly) playful with his unfiltered, druggy, cocktail-crazy sex party in the sky, I’m So Excited.
90 percent of the film is set on an airplane stranded in the clouds—one of the landing gears has been damaged (by the bumbling Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in the film’s brief tone-setting prologue). The pilots search desperately for a solution for their dire predicament while three unflappably optimistic, gay flight attendants (Javier Camara, Carlos Areces, and Raul Arevalo, like a bitchy three-headed dog of fabulousness) attempt to keep the business class passengers’ spirits high despite the morbid situation that needles them. The economy class passengers? They’ve been drugged to sleep, ignorant of the impending danger (Almodóvar’s take on the Spanish proletariat).
Now, back to the business class folks. They’re a pill-popping, sex-starved freak show of sleaze. Lola Dueñas, an Almodóvar alumnus, plays a perpetually grinning 40-year-old-virgin psychic who can “smell death” and enhances her “powers” by groping a pair of male genitalia like a forklift driver. The rest of the weirdos include an assassin, a whore queen, and young newlyweds who have sleepwalk-sex right in their seats. “Shhhh!” the young husband—afraid his wife will be jostled from her sleep-state—snips to the vocally curious Dueñas, who is sitting right by them, fascinated by their lovemaking. From her inexperienced sexual perspective, she sees the couple’s amorous display as an impromptu sex-ed class. “What is it?!” the husband snips, hilariously, in between moans. “Are you doing it from the front or the back?” inquires Dueñas. That’s Almodóvar for you. Bawdy moments like this are plentiful and infectiously funny.
The film’s title refers to its brilliantly camp, wildly choreographed dance number performed by the three flight attendants, set to the classic Pointer Sisters tune. The trio is so committed to their flamboyance and semi-synchronized dance moves that you’ll be dying to jump into the screen, grab a Valencia cocktail, and join in on the fun. It’s joyously sloppy Cabaret.
Theatricality is the name of the game here, as all of the scenes on the plane feel like a filmed stage play (in a good, kinetic way, though not terribly cinematic). Almodóvar feels like early ‘80s Almodóvar, the guy who directed outlandish shock-fests like Pepi, Luci, Bom… This is a good thing, but while the in-your-face crudeness of his early work is very much present and potent here, the dramatic beats—there are more than you’d expect—don’t leave a lasting impression. The scattered tender moments (however melodramatic) are constantly elbowed aside by the gags, which are tastier and easily digestible. Even the parabolic commentary on Spain (something Almodóvar spends much time on) is overshadowed by the raunchy, “Fuck you, you’re gonna love this shit” humor. There’s a love story mixed up in here somewhere, but all I can think about is the scene when Lola Dueñas rapes a guy (gasp)!
Has Almodóvar’s filthy comedic mind lost its edge during his extended respite? No—his edge is sharp, and he’s still fiendishly provocative, no question. He had me constantly shaking my head in disbelief at the dirty things he got me to laugh at. What keeps I’m So Excited from being one of his very best is that the narrative threads running throughout the film, while ambitious and well-acted, ultimately add very little to the overall experience. Though the film’s half-hearted narrative is underwhelming, the rowdy airborne shenanigans, bitch-fest dialog, and irresistible cast will grab you by the face and give you a big smooch you won’t soon forget.