I’m So Excited: Almodóvar Takes Flight, Then Stalls

I’m So Excited

Opens Fri., July 19 at Harvard Exit and Sundance Cinemas. Rated R. 90 minutes.

The plane is in the air, and the coach passengers have been sedated for the duration of the flight. This is a wacky Pedro Almodóvar touch—especially the way the flight crew accepts this as standard procedure—and it fits the movie’s overall feeling of not quite existing within the known universe. (Actually, putting passengers to sleep during a long flight is not a terrible idea, even if the plane isn’t experiencing mechanical difficulties.) But this trip has gone wrong. The flight crew is panicked over the stuck landing gear and worried about keeping the first-class passengers distracted. On both points, there’s a great deal of tequila involved.

I’m So Excited has been touted as a return to Almodóvar’s zany early work such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and in some ways that’s true. It’s crammed with explicit sex jokes, suggested sex acts, and a brazen attitude toward hedonism at 30,000 feet. The members of the crew are tangled in illicit relationships; the conscious passengers are a roster of eccentrics and rogues. We lack only a guitar-playing nun and a teen needing a kidney transplant.

In truth, the makers of Airplane! did the movie-parody thing better. But Almodóvar has other motives, which likely include a level of political comment (the plane is going around in circles and nobody cares what the economy passengers think, for starters). There’s also some early-’70s-style proselytizing on behalf of the slipperiness of sexual identity and behavior. All of which would be more fun if Almodóvar were in top form for the duration, but something’s missing. The film needs one more complicating plot thread, another strong character, to hit the high-octane screwball zone of Nervous Breakdown. The opening half-hour bops along with promise, with a prologue that briefly brings Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz into the proceedings and establishes the poppy design scheme.

The misbehaving flight attendants are played by Javier Cámara (he was the lead in Almodóvar’s Talk to Her), Carlos Areces, and Raúl Arévalo, and they make it clear that “too campy” is not in the movie’s lexicon. The material wears thin enough that performances become the main source of satisfaction, to which end the earnestness of plain/pretty Lola Dueñas (as a 40-year-old passenger determined to lose her virginity before the end of the flight) is a lovely bonus.

Almodóvar’s setup comes close to something that might’ve worked in a film by his great countryman Luis Buñuel, but only if the plane remained perpetually in flight. By the time we reach the end of I’m So Excited, the debaucheries have added up to a surprisingly soft—and therefore unmemorable—landing.

film@seattleweekly.com

 
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