Following the success of his Bafta-winning suspense thriller The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar reverted back to his transgressive roots with the cheeky sex-induced comedy, I’m So Excited. When the landing gear of a Spanish passenger jet bound for Mexico City malfunctions, its passengers and crew become suspended in mid-flight; mindlessly circling above Toledo awaiting clearance for an emergency landing. With the entire economy class sedated, it only leaves those in business class, three gay flight attendants and the two sexually ambiguous pilots aware of their impending crisis.
With the possibility of a fiery end seemingly imminent, you would expect there to be chaos on board, but with the help of some mescaline spiked cocktails, those still conscious remain surprisingly relaxed by the whole situation. Creating fear and tension with the thought that the plane could actually plummet at any second, leading to hundreds of fatalities, is of course not Almodóvar’s intentions. This is a comedy after all, one more akin to Pepi, Luci, Bom and not the bleakly comic drama that the director has become known for of late.
Even an ensuing subplot involving a phone call between one of the passengers, a greying soap actor (Guillermo Toledo), and his suicidal lover (Paz Vega) is treated with a light-hearted fanciful touch. Other idiosyncratic characters include Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo) a mysterious Mexican, Bruna (Lola Dueñas), a sexually-frustrated clairvoyant, and Norma (Cecilia Roth), a stuck-up businesswoman and dominatrix. It is the trio of amusingly over-the-top camp stewards who take most eccentric award though, with their incredible lip-synching rendition of the eponymous Pointer Sisters song being a particular highlight halfway through the movie.
The combination of wacky personas mixed with the severity of their predicament sounds like the making of a great screwball farce, but while Almodóvar doesn’t exactly fudge the opportunity, the film doesn’t quite reach its full comedic potential. Most of jokes are very broad, often involving homosexual stereotypes and having various sex acts in odd scenarios. The culmination of Bruna’s sex fantasy is especially troubling, and can be interpreted as being outrageous in the most shockingly distasteful way.
I’m So Excited is not to be taken seriously, however. Occasional comments about Spain’s economic troubles are carefully laced beneath the bawdy gags as a way to give the narrative some political substance, but most of it admittedly just flies over the head. It is the brazen performances and the ecstatic camp energy that saves this from being a crashing disappointment, and the brief cameos from Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz always welcome. Altogether, this is an infantile, but fun, cheery comedy that is unmistakably limp, but also unmistakably Almodóvar.