Perhaps tired of acclaim and upright behavior, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has gone back to being bad for his new movie, I’m So Excited.
One of Spain’s proudest exports, Almodovar won Oscars for the beautiful, blue-ribbon art house movies All About My Mother (1999) and Talk to Her (2002). He tends to please audiences and critics without ever getting too brainy, and has always stayed true to his bold color palette and his gallery of character actors.
However, Almodovar has a past. His early movies, such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), sported a broad, swishy, cabaret-ish style, which he toned down for subsequent Oscar-friendly movies.
I’m So Excited is filled with wide strokes, and characters with large personalities and little dimension. It begins with three gay flight attendants — Joserra (Javier Camara), Fajas (Carlos Areces), and Ulloa (Raul Arevalo) — doing the safety demonstrations with flair. Then we meet the bisexual captain (Antonio de la Torre) and the co-captain, who is straight but exploring his sexuality. Then we meet a psychic woman (Lola Duenas), who can see the future (especially when it involves death) and really hopes to lose her virginity before the flight is over.
Other characters include a dominatrix (Celia Roth), a womanizing actor (Guillermo Toledo), and a beautiful, partying honeymoon couple (Miguel Angel Silvestre and Laya Marti), all flying business class. The problem is that the plane’s landing gear is stuck and they need to make a potentially lethal emergency landing. This problem occurs in a prologue, when two airport workers (Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz) find out they’re going to have a baby together and fall down on the job.
This is the movie’s biggest problem: the strange imbalance between the terror of crashing and dying, and the oversized comedy. The crash itself is peculiar. Done on a minimal budget (shots of an evacuated airport and sound effects only), it has the effect of being both incredibly eerie and oddly comical. Another offbeat subplot deals with swindling businessmen, a concept that is less funny than it is raw and sore.
Jokes include the economy flyers drugged to sleep, and the business-class passengers getting drunk on Valencia cocktails mixed with mescaline, and everyone suddenly getting unbearably horny. Almodovar even includes a full-blown, lip-synced musical number to the tune of the title song.
It’s a sometimes pleasing, often unsettling movie, proof that Almodovar still has a playful side — but let’s hope he goes back to work soon.
I’M SO EXCITED Carlos Areces, Javier Cámara, Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, in Spanish, with English subtitles, rated R, 90 mins