After watching Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited!, I imagined a hypothetical conversation in which someone tried to describe it to me before I saw it. “You know that old movie Zero Hour!,” this hypothetical individual would say, “the imminent-tragedy-in-the-sky drama that served as the basic plot structure for Airplane!? Well, imagine that, but instead of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team making fun of it, it’s Almodóvar.” And I would nod knowingly, because I would understand instinctively exactly what I’d be likely to see.
I’m So Excited! couldn’t possibly be any more like that description—and that’s even taking into account how many of Almodóvar’s recent features have moved away from high-camp melodrama to thriller melodrama or just plain melodrama melodrama. Sticking a bunch of variously sex-crazed, sinister or oddball characters on a troubled jet would just be a way for Almodóvar to watch their quirks circle one another for 90 minutes. And it might actually have worked—if only he’d had enough confidence to stay on that plane.
It’s a bizarre bunch of cats Almodóvar has cooped up in the cockpit and business class of a Mexico City-bound plane—fretting over a landing-gear malfunction that appears likely to require an emergency crash-landing—while the passengers in coach sleep blissfully, drugged by the crew so as to minimize the panic. The head steward, Joserra (Javier Cámara), frets over his affair with the married bisexual pilot (Antonio de la Torre). One of the passengers, Norma (Cecilia Roth), is convinced that the plane’s troubles are part of a plot to kill her because of incriminating information she possesses. Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), a successful actor, tries to reach the woman (Paz Vega) he believes is about to kill herself over him. And another passenger, Bruna (Lola Dueñas), claims psychic knowledge and an ability to sense the proximity of death. Oh, and she’s also a virgin.
After detouring into darker territory in recent films like The Skin I Live In, Almodóvar is returning to rambunctious candy-colored territory, obvious as soon as he turns the safety presentation by Joserra and his fellow flight attendants into a weird bit of stylized choreography. And it becomes evident that we’re in something of a fantasy world when security concerns are blithely brushed aside and the cockpit becomes an increasingly packed gathering place rivaling the stateroom scene in A Night At the Opera.
But there’s something weirdly appealing about this possibly doomed flight degenerating into catty arguments about whether the co-pilot is also bisexual, or a banker (José Luis Torrijo) realizing that his attempt to flee fraud prosecution has been thwarted. By the time our trio of flaming stewards breaks into a full-on production number set to the titular Pointer Sisters song and the passengers get crazy on mescaline-laced cocktails, you’ll either be caught up in the breezy silliness between dramatic revelations or be wondering if this plane is ever going to land.
In fact, I’m So Excited! makes its biggest mistakes when it is earthbound. The opening vignette—involving ground-crew members Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas—may be a tone-setter, but it winds up feeling like an excuse for Almodóvar to squeeze in the cameo appearances. It’s even more baffling when the story shifts to Ricardo’s emotionally unstable girlfriend, who randomly encounters another one of Ricardo’s ex-lovers (Blanca Suárez). It’s an extended departure from the events taking place on the plane, and there’s little payoff or point to the detour. Considering that the film runs only 90 minutes, it starts to feel as though Almodóvar is desperately seeking ways to pad out the run time, even if it means hanging out for a while with completely peripheral characters.
That long “meanwhile” away from the troubled jet unfortunately allows plenty of time to notice that Almodóvar gets a bit too caught up in the notion of being transgressive. Essentially, I’m So Excited! turns into the filmmaker’s answer to, “Why wouldn’t everyone on a plane about to crash just have a great big orgy?” And as they pair off in every possible combination—and talk about those pairings in graphic detail—the naughtiness begins to feel forced. A little more claustrophobia might have forced Almodóvar to dig just a bit deeper into these characters. As much as I’m So Excited! is unmistakably Pedro, he’s more fun when he mixes at least a little thinky with his kinky.
I’M SO EXCITED!
Javier Cámara, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth