Pedro Joins the Mile High Club

I’m So Excited! (Los amantes pasajeros)
(Spain, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo, Lola Dueñas, Hugo Silva, Antonio de la Torre, Cecila Roth, José Luis Torrijo, José María Yazpik, Blanca Suárez, Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega
Javier Cámara as Joserra and Raúl Arévalo as Ulloa
Photo: Paola Ardizzoni & Emilio Pereda © El Deseo,
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics 
Pedro Almodóvar joins the mile high club with his latest comedy I’m So Excited! A light and fluffy sex farce set miles above ground, I’m So Excited! is bound to leave film buffs in the art house crowd feeling lightheaded and dizzy. The film, which tells of the hijinks aboard a doomed aircraft travelling from Spain to Mexico, is the director’s silliest and campiest film in years. It’s a nice break after the darkness of The Skin I Live In, but Mr. Almodóvar might have let the high altitude rob the film of the arty substance that fans have come to expect in his films. However, even the stylish(ish)ness and giddy camp value are outrageous enough to ensure that the great director’s auteur status is not in jeopardy.

I’m So Excited, for all the flimsiness of its script, is truly a must see for fans of the director because the ensemble is comprised of a proverbial who’s who of Almodóvar regulars. From cameo appearances by Penélope Cruz (Volver, Broken Embraces) and Antonio Banderas (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Skin I Live in) to face offs between Cecila Roth (All About My Mother) and Javier Cámara (Talk to Her) to a scene-stealing Lola Dueñas (Volver, Broken Embraces), I’m So Excited is a comically star-studded affair of the director’s best players. The only person missing seems to be Carmen Maura, who could have easily reprised her role from Volver and played the passenger ripping farts in the cabin.

It’s too bad that Almodóvar couldn’t gather all these actors to play with more substantial material, so the sitcommy silliness of I’m So Excited! reeks of missed opportunities. It seems pointless to get Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas together in the same frame, which is an Almodóvar milestone in itself, yet give them nothing to do other than perform a two-minute Twitter gag. It’s silly to gather rare and costly ingredients like truffles and saffron only to serve dinner guests with microwaved airplane food. It might satisfy the belly, but sophisticated palates know that the chef is capable of better. I’m So Excited also lacks the presentation and visual flair for which the great filmmaker is famous, as the medium two-shot aesthetic makes I’m So Excited look like the first Almodóvar film shot for exhibition on an iPod. Ironically enough, the tight shots probably make the film ideal as an in-flight movie.

On the other hand, the spirited cast makes I’m So Excited! a rambunctious escape. They’re playing with the campiest material that Almodóvar has provided in a while, and one can’t help but laugh during the mid-flight musical number led by the plane’s trio of flamboyantly gay flight attendants played by Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, and Raúl Arévalo. It’s also very Almodóvar-esque to see a whole cabin of Spaniards have nothing but sex on the brain when they learn that they could soon be plummeting to their death. The sexy joie de vivre of I’m So Excited! is a fun, fleeting entertainment no matter how thin it is. Oddly enough, it’s only when I’m So Excited strays from the airplane into a subplot involving the mistresses of a lothario aboard the plane (José Luis Torrijo) that the film seems to be looking for filler to bring the flight to the ninety-minute mark.

Almodóvar also shows himself to be a capable pilot when commanding a craft with such a small engine. There’s only so much one can do aesthetically when shooting in the small confines of an airplane, yet Almodóvar manipulates space to his advantage by finding all sorts of room for odd canted angles and invasively tight framing to make characters—and viewers—hot under the collar as hormones rage in the debauchery-fuelled ride. The director’s signature use of colour is similarly muted by the restrictions of the airplane, but I’m So Excited makes the banality of standardized customer service pop out against the gaudy personalities of its colourfully gay characters.

This latest flight of fancy, while not Almodóvar’s best, is an amusing diversion for cinephiles in the mood for a decent sex comedy. It’s nothing more and nothing less. I’m So Excited might make a decent gateway film for new visitors to the land of Almodóvar, and frequent fliers should enjoy the return to the flamboyant camp of his earlier films. All summer passports need a stamp of “Viva, Pedro!”

Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

I’m So Excited screens in Ottawa at The ByTowne until Thursday, August 6th.
It then screens at The Mayfair beginning August 30th.