I’m So Excited
Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar.
Hebrew title: La’ouf m’hitragshut.
With Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Javier Camarra, Antonio de la Torre
Running time: 90 minutes.
In Spanish, with Hebrew and English titles
The comic highlight of Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, I’m So Excited , is three gay flight attendants doing a karaoke song- and-dance number (set to the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”) to distract passengers who are anxious over the prospect of an emergency landing. If the thought of that makes you smile, then you’ll enjoy Almodovar’s light and silly take on all the airline movies of the past, the first film he’s made in years that is genuinely funny and harks back to his early – and best – film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).
Now that I’ve seen I’m So Excited , it seems obvious that the time has come for a movie about gay flight attendants. Instead of slavishly aping Douglas Sirk melodramas, as Almodovar has in his past few outings, here he takes the campy old stewardess movies, such as the 1963 Come Fly with Me , which features three female flight attendants looking for love, and turns the clichés upside down.
In this film, it’s a man, Joserra (Javier Camarra, whom you may recognize from Almodovar’s 2002 Talk to Her , where he played the nurse), who is having an affair with the pilot, Alex (Antonio de la Torre, who was in Almodovar’s Volver ), a married, closeted bisexual. Alex once had a brief dalliance with his co-pilot, Benito (Hugo Silva), although Benito insists he’s straight (you can more or less guess the fate of any man in an Almodovar film who utters the words “I’m straight”). Joserra’s fellow business-class flight attendants are the flamboyant Ulloa (Raul Arevalo) and Fajas (Carlos Areces), a chubby, religious guy who carries a shrine to gods of various religions in his briefcase and prays for a husband.
The plot kicks off when members of the ground crew, played by two of Spain’s brightest stars, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, who got their start in Almodovar’s films, get into an accident as a plane is checked and loaded. The plane takes off from Spain, headed to Mexico as scheduled, but early into the flight, it turns out that because of this ground accident, there is a problem with the landing gear. It may be fine, or there may be a terrible accident.
The economy-class passengers have all been drugged as a matter of company policy (one of the film’s many jokes about the indignities of modern air travel), but the business-class passengers know something is up, and our trio of stewards have to keep them calm.
These passengers all get their own storylines, some of which will remind you of Almodovar’s melodramatic films. There is Bruna (the very likable Lola Duenas, who recently starred in The Women on the Sixth Floor) , a psychic who senses there is trouble ahead and thinks the crisis may help her to finally lose her virginity; Norma (Cecilia Roth, who has starred in many of Almodovar’s previous films, including All About My Mother ), the glamorous, quarrelsome founder of an escort service specializing in S&M; Infante (Jose Maria Yazpik), a mysterious Mexican; Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), a philandering actor (there is a pointless subplot about the women he has left behind, which is mainly a chance for the lovely actresses Paz Vega and Blanca Suarez to look really good); Mr. Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo), a corrupt banker fleeing the mess he has left behind; and, most fortuitously for the plot, a newlywed (Miguel Angel Silvestre), who is smuggling mescaline (don’t ask for details unless you’ve got a strong stomach).
The flight attendants mix a crazy cocktail using the mescaline and other ingredients, and everyone loses their inhibitions. I certainly don’t want to give away the ending, but Almodovar handles the landing in an innovative way that is very effective. Wisely, he doesn’t try to compete with the clichéd special-effects extravaganzas that are commonplace in movies recently.
Seeing I’m So Excited , a return to comic form for the director, is like downing the cocktail the passengers and crew drink in the movie without having to come down from that high later.