I’m So Excited: Almodovar's Mediocre Comedy

Pedro Almodovar’s new comedy, “I’m So Excited,” is a minor work, a slight sex farce that’s retro in both the positive and negative senses of the word.

Going back to his roots after several stylishly elegant films, the film noir “Broken Embraces” and the medical horror-thriller “The Skin I Live In,” “I’m So Excited” is rude and crude in the manner of his very first pictures, except that it’s airless and only sporadically involving.

The film, which opened in Spain in the spring, is released stateside by the reliable distributor, Sony Classics, as counter-programming to the summer’s spectacles and blockbusters. “I’m So Excited” divided the British critics, and it’s likely to get similar mixed reaction from their American counterparts. For me, it’s one of Almodovar’s weakest movies in a glorious career that spans 33 years and includes 19 features, most of which good or great.

Fans of Almodovar’s wild and transgressive comedies would like “I’m So Excited,” perhaps even find it entertaining, but as far as I am concerned, it’s too simple, too broad and too silly to qualify as a satisfying farce. The movie goes out of its way to provide a joyous celebration of free sexuality in all its variations, gay, straight, bisexual. The movie is meant to be light and fluffy, and for a while it is, but, ultimately, it’s too strained, fractured, and lacking genuine comic energy.

The cast reunites many thespians from all the phases of the helmer’s career, beginning with Cecilia Roth, who was in his first two pictures, and in his 1999 masterpiece, “All About My Mother” (Still my favorite Almodovar picture).

The first scene is sort of a teaser, featuring Almodovar’s regular actors, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, in cameo parts as airport workers-lovers, who suddenly realize they are soon going to be parents. The action then moves up, into an airplane that’s bound for Mexico, but due to technical problems, begins circling in the air–just like the film itself, which never really takes off.

Almodovar is obviously in a campy mood, which is manifest in his introduction of three male flight attendants, whose roles are scripted as caricatures (by intent, I assume). Javier Camara (“Talk to Her”) plays Joserra, high-strung, fast-talking guy, who has something to say about everybody and everything. Raul Arevalo is the slender, pill-fueled Ulloa. Carlos Areces is cast as the chubby, sexually repressed, religiously fanatic Fajas, who prays for the souls of his mates and the passengers with a portable toy altar he carries with him.

Most of the action is confined to the Business Class, as the passengers traveling in Economy have been given a sleeping pill. The passengers include Bruna (Lola Duenas), a sexually hung-up psychic—she claims she is a virgin–with a particular ability for sensing death. She is the first one to see the trouble coming, which she shares with the pilots.

The middle-aged but still attractive Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth) is a former actress who is now a dominatrix for Spain’s political class. Norma claims to have video recordings of Spain’s 600 most important people as they engage in bondage.

Also onboard, and initially not mixing together well, are the soap star Galan (Guillermo Toledo), the corrupt businessman Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo) and the notorious Mexican hitman Infante (Jose Maria Yazpik).

The attendants decide to keep the spirits up by lacing the passengers’ drinks with mescaline. Later on, they suddenly erupt into a performance of the Pointer Sisters’ disco classic, “I’m So Excited,” a song that gives the picture its English-language title. In Spanish it’s called, “Los amantes pasajeros” (which translates into “The Loving Passengers”).

When the drugs kick in, all social class and sexual barriers disappear, resulting in some erotic scenes between the pilots (one bisexual, the other straight) and the attendants, and among the most unlikely passengers, who form couples.

A pre-credits note states that the film bears no relation to anything factual, but I suspect that it may resonate better in Spain, due to the allusions made to that country’s economics, politics, and morality. Artistically a misfire, the satire is just wild and erratic, but not funny or erotic enough as a biting farce.

Cast:

Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Cecilia Roth, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva Paz Vega, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas

Credits
Production companies: El Deseo S.A.
Director, screenwriter: Pedro Almodovar
Producers: Agustin Almodovar, Ester Garcia
Director of photography: Jose Luis Alcaine
Production designer: Antxon Gomez
Costume designer: Tatiana Hernandez
Music: Alberto Iglesias
Choreographer: Blanca Li
Editor: Jose Salcedo
Sales: FilmNation Entertainment

Running time: 90 minutes