By Joan Ellis
Who doesn’t look forward to a movie written and directed by Pedro Almodovar? Always unpredictable, he sprinkles his movies with metaphor and the unexpected in the written script as well as in the behavior of his actors. In I’m So Excited! he gives us an airborne, alcohol-fueled sex farce while just under the surface lie allusions to the financial crisis and corporate crime now in the headlines about Spain.
Scene 1 announces the tone as an airport attendant and his baggage handling girlfriend make eye contact and forget to do their jobs. With baggage strewn on the runway, Scene 2 introduces us to the flight attendants in uniforms so absurd they draw immediate belly laughs. Imagine grown men rendered instantly ridiculous in shirts with tiny stripes on collars, chest pockets, and cuffs. Almodovar has invited us to settle in for a good time.
An hour into the flight from Spain to Mexico, we and the pilots have discovered that a landing gear problem may cause a fatal crash. Already in mid-farce, we don’t waste a second worrying about the outcome.
On one level we are treated to the comic incompetence of the crew and the control tower. On another we are introduced to the entitled eccentrics in the first-class cabin. All their deep-rooted emotional dilemmas pour forth now that they’re endangered. It’s Almodovar’s way of exploring the humanity of his otherwise brusque, controlled characters.
The director is free to puncture the polished surfaces of his first-class passengers because his crew has conveniently – and wisely – drugged all the people in steerage. As pilots, crew, and first-class cabin passengers drink and drug themselves to sitcom excess, sex replaces money as their driving force. Will the dignified father reunite with his dominatrix daughter? Is the brothel owner the target of a conspiracy to bring down the plane? Will the mogul whose business crimes are on the front pages be exonerated? Will the virgin who doesn’t want to die in that condition solve her problem? As the fatal landing approaches, everyone takes a last shot at sex and confession.
But back to those flight attendants. In their silly uniforms, they provide a high point with a musical parody of their own gay selves. Who but Almodovar would think of a portable cardboard altar that springs forth from a briefcase for praying in time of trouble? Or how about the sex confessions of the pilots interspersed with the technical drills and preparations for the landing they know will kill them all. There’s not a competent voice in the group.
Imagining all the things that can go right or wrong in sexual fantasies, Almodovar unlocks the imaginations of his characters with drugs and alcohol and delivers an uninhibited version of their worst dreads and most perfect pleasures. Though the audience is happily on board from the beginning, the one laughing the hardest at the madcap comedy is surely Pedro Almodovar himself.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.