Film Review: I'm So Excited!Pedro Almodóvar pivots sharply away from his recent psychodramas for a lively but somewhat rote camp cabaret comedy set on board an endangered passenger jet filled with nervous passengers and bitchy flight attendants.
The Spanish title for Pedro Almodóvar’s newest film, The Amorous Passengers, is more to the point than its English title, I’m So Excited!, even if it doesn’t leave as much to the imagination. That’s alright, though, as the film itself doesn’t have much truck with leaving anything unsaid. It’s a fashion-magazine potboiler, gossipy and brash, whose attention keeps wandering south of the waistline.
The action starts on the ground, where a couple of runway workers (Almodóvar vets Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas popping by for a zippy cameo) let their frantic romantic passions take their attention away from the job at hand. And so Peninsula Flight 2549 to Mexico City takes off with critically damaged landing gear. Up in the air, the story starts to unfurl its chaos in claustrophobic quarters. In short order, the few passengers scattered through the business-class cabin realize that their pilots have them in a holding pattern around Toledo while they look for an emergency runway to crash-land on. An itchy tension and desire to get right with one’s life immediately set in. Everybody back in economy is just fine with the whole situation, since they have been drugged into a stupor with muscle relaxants.
Standards seem lax on Peninsula Airlines, with the trio of campy flight attendants moving swiftly from mass-drugging to doing tequila shots and divulging every secret they possibly can. Their high-net-worth wards are a sharply sketched and flashy bunch, from a high-strung woman with faded film-star histrionics, to a dark and mustachioed man with secrets, to an actor conducting urgent phone calls with his current and former lover on the ground, to a wide-eyed innocent with claims to psychic powers. The film shoots quickly through the phase of keeping the passengers in the dark to one where everybody realizes they may well die soon. As desperation sets in, the liquor continues to flow, more drugs are produced, accusations leveled, and an interlocking lattice of frantically lustful coupling takes over the cabin.
As with the best Almodóvar comedies, the sensibility is one of finely tuned dramatics and neon-bright characterizations—particular standouts being Javier Cámara as the jittery chief steward and Lola Dueñas as the would-be psychic looking to lose her virginity before dying—laid over a foundation of barely contained chaos. In a sharp turn from the darker and richer textures of his more recent films like Volver and The Skin I Live In, the palette here is bright and two-dimensional (there is a hint of subtext relating to modern Spanish economic and government scandals, but it’s quickly rushed by). There are throwback references aplenty, to pop comedies of the 1950s and ’60s and screwball theatrics of an earlier era, a choreographed musical number (to The Pointer Sisters’ title song), and a final freeze-frame that could have been taken from any number of ’80s raunch romps.
But where one would imagine that the confined space would cause the generally frantic nature of Almodóvar’s comedy to be explosively compressed, all it does here is limit the filmmaker’s normally grand visual schemes. I’m So Excited! would seem to be an easy one for this filmmaker and something of a return to form. But the cocktail of cabaret and disaster-flick theatrics has less pop to it than one would imagine; too much sugar and not enough bite.