If I were to be honest, I came late to the Pedro Almodóvar party. He first came onto my radar with All About My Mother while I was in film school. The Almodóvar I became a fan of was rich in melodrama and out and out weirdness. His last film, The Skin I Live In, was actually one of my favorites. It was a sick nod to Vertigo and mixed surreal shocks with the rich melodramatic storytelling this master filmmaker balances so well.
Maybe this is why his latest film, I’m So Excited! seems so foreign to me. It feels like a departure from the Almodóvar I’m used to, yet others describe it as a return to the kind of films he made early in his career. Broad/campy comedy used to upset sacred cows. In the 1980’s, it was post Franco Spain and religion that Almodóvar had in his sights. I’m So Excited! is less focused in what it’s trying to take down. Yes, there are mentions of Spain’s financial crisis and allusions to the social structure (the plane the film takes place on is divided into two “classes” the perpetually sleeping masses of the Economy Class and the elite and powerful in the Business Class) but these themes get lost. Instead we are distracted by the antics of a flamboyant flight crew who admittedly do a pretty funny dance routine to The Pointer Sisters’ song that the title takes its name from. But what does it all mean?
The plot of the film involves Peninsula Flight 2549. On its way from Spain to Mexico City, the pilots discover there is a problem with the landing gear. They are going to have to engage in a rather dangerous emergency landing, and as the members of the flight crew and business class passengers start to realize what’s going on, they react in various ways. Some drink heavily, some call loved ones on the ground, and others engage in a drug fueled orgy, breaking their own personal sexual taboos.
I would describe the whole affair as silly; it’s surreal, and silly. That alone is fine but I feel like Almodóvar is trying to have it both ways. One story in the film involves an actor reconnecting by pure chance with a woman who loved him, over the phone. It’s a sweet poignant storyline. But when it becomes mixed up with moments of male flight attendants wiping semen off their face, it just makes us lose focus.
I’ve read Almodóvar was inspired by the films of Blake Edwards, and it shows. There are some very direct links to The Party, right down to a foam filled finale. There is a lot to enjoy here, like the retro candy colored feel and the comedy that comes from merely being trapped in a confined space where no one can hide their secrets. But for ever sacred cow crushing joke, there are two that feel stale. Is it really that much fun to watch a man’s face as he receives oral sex? Is it even supposed to be a joke or is Almodóvar just being taboo?
Almodóvar has been on a fantastic cinematic run since the late 90’s. Unfortunately I’m So Excited! is too much of a mixed bag, a rare misstep for this master.