“I’m So Excited” — Almodovar in a playful mood

1The latest Pedro Almodovar film has opened to mixed reviews.  Having crafted such master works as Talk To Her, All About My Mother, and Volver, some reviewers found it hard to embrace this bon-bon of a film that is closer in tone to his earlier, more playful films like, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.  A sexy, soap opera set in a plane, I’m So Excited is a delightful romp celebrating sexual expression and acceptance.

All of the characters are stereotypes: campy flight attendant, corrupt businessman, kooky psychic, but with a twist — everyone has a secret or a passion that needs to be expressed.  There’s not much of a plot as the film is more concerned with letting each character tell his or her story by interacting with the other (often drunk and/or drugged and occasionally, hysterical) passengers.  The flight might be doomed so why not reveal your darkest secrets or act out your sexual fantasies?   And if you’re still uptight, have a cocktail laced with drugs!

Some audiences will miss the joy that’s intended by all of this reckless abandon.  And there’s certainly an uncomfortable moral pinch when multiple people are taken advantage of while in a drugged state of arousal!  Yet “I’m So Excited” has such a big heart and is staged in such a bright, colorful world of dreams that it’s not too difficult to forgive what would otherwise be deemed reprehensible in the real world.   If you’re savvy enough to pick it up, there’s even a political undertone that represents the state of affairs in Spain.

“We were in an awful crisis in Spain and I came up with the idea of having people up in the clouds.  It’s very unreal but very metaphoric about the Spanish situation.  We’re traveling around without knowing where we’re going to land.  We need an emergency landing, but that implies risk and danger, and we don’t know who will be in command.  And also this idea of being on both sides: in heaven or in earth, death or life.” Pedro Almodovar (http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/welcome-to-the-party-pedro-almodovar-on-his-new-film-im-so-excited)

The kitchy opening credits will put you in a happy frame of mind and you’ll be delighted to see Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz camping it up for their favorite director.  The silliness of the scene sets the tone for the film, but how their actions lead to the airplane’s malfunction is a little sketchy.  There are wonderful performances by some Almodovar regulars, Cecilia Roth and Lola Dueñas and a hilariously over-the-top lead flight attendant, masterfully played by Javier Cámara.  Camara’s character cannot tell a lie — yet he manages to hide a delightful secret from his married bisexual lover.   A crash scene is wonderfully (and economically) crafted to utilize a simple film production trick that allows the audience to use their own imagination.  One extended scene with a Casanova using the airplane’s phone, should have been omitted as it distracts from the scene unfolding in the air.

I’m So Excited has a freshness and quirkiness that makes it an unpolished gem — as if it had been produced by a community theater troupe that just happened to be run by one of the world’s greatest directors.  American audiences may not be ready for the outrageous sexual abandon on display here, not the least because it involves both gay and bisexual men but the sex scenes are fairly tame.  It’s the concepts of sexual freedom that are graphic!

So if you’re going to take this flight, check your sexual inhibitions at the gate!

Rating: 4 glasses of Valencia (no pharmaceuticals needed, please!)

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