For every country, there seems to be one filmmaker repping their cinema industry. England has Alfred Hitchcock, America has Stanley Kubrick, France: Jean-Luc Godard, in Sweden it’s Ingmar Bergman and Italy’s got Federico Fellini. For Spain, Pedro Almodóvar has been the director most film viewers associate with Spanish cinema. With success in a number of different genres such as comedies (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), dramas (All About My Mother), character studies (Talk to Her), period pieces (Bad Education) and family features (Volver). The auteur has taken a break from his more recent serious features for a slapstick ensemble that is a reunion with his previous collaborators.
On Peninsula Flight 2549, heading from Madrid to Mexico City, drama ensues when a technical failure causes the plane to not land and fly in circles. On board are a virgin named Bruna (Lola Dueñas) who can see into the future, a famous con artist posing as a dominatrix by the name of Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth), movie star Ricardo Galán (Guillermo Toledo), three gay flight attendants named Joserra (Javier Cámara), Fajas (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo), and plane pilots Alex (Antonio de la Torre) and Benito (Hugo Silva). Things get crazy when booze and hard drugs get passed around in first class, and angst appears between Joserra and Alex, who are lovers, and Ricardo and Ruth (Blanca Suárez), his girlfriend back in Madrid.
I’m So Excited! features a large number of familiar faces from Almodóvar’s previous films, and that in itself is a highlight for fans of him or Spanish cinema in general. Dueñas, who most viewers remember as Penelope Cruz’s sister in Volver (2006), plays a similar role as a plain, but sweet, girl who senses strangeness in the air. Cámara, who reunites with Almodóvar for the third time after Talk to Her (2002) and Bad Education (2004), carries the film effortlessly as the actor and character set up for so much hysteria. He along with Areces and Arévalo are flamboyant and animated, but also keep the tone of the film throughout and amusingly so. Not since The Wedding Singer (1998) has there been a musical number set on a plane as memorable as the flight attendants dancing to the title song by the Pointer Sisters.
Cecilia Roth gained recognition and acclaim as the title character in All About My Mother (1999), and now Almodóvar puts her in a wardrobe and wig resembling Anna Wintour, with a diva persona that gives her some of the best wisecracks and punchlines in the movie. And as the main character left on ground in the film, Blanca Suarez (last notably seen in Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In) is youthful and vibrant as the young girl who realizes she’s just another of Ricardo’s many girlfriends since becoming famous. Even old regulars who began their careers with direction from the Spanish moviemaker, Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz and Paz Vega appear in cameos throughout the feature.
From the very first scene with Banderas and Cruz on the runway, the theme and feel of the film is set for a comedic ride. Many might find this to be Almodóvar’s own, sardonic take on Airplane! (1980), what with ridiculous characters and antics carried on aboard a fate ridden plane. But while Airplane! is completely farcical, I’m So Excited! is campy satire. Dwelling back into his original roots of dark comedy as he did in Women on the Verge, I’m So Excited mixes serious issues such as affairs and suicide in the midst of drug induced conversations and highs. Not unusual for an Almodóvar film, and as we’ve seen before, he can go much darker with his plots. While he’s trying to be lighthearted and fun this time around, some of the jokes and gags come across a bit too corny and actually remind us that he is at his best with dark material. The darkest moment in the film seems to also possibly be the most unintentional disturbing, with Bruna losing her virginity to an unconscious man in the coach section, which might make some audience members uncomfortable.
But despite the corniness of some scenes and awkward sexual content, I’m So Excited is still worth a viewing for those fans of Spanish cinema and the familiar faces of Spain.