Almodóvar's new comedy is pertinent, but lacks humour

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 2:15pm


Starring: Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, Cecilia Roth, Antonio de la Torre

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Category: III (Spanish)


Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar's latest film is his first pure comedy since the runaway hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), making it a must-see for any self-respecting cineaste. But while the in-flight farce works as national satire, it is unremarkable as entertainment; so don't get too excited.

Showing glimpses of the anarchic spirit of his 1980s films, I'm So Excited! opens with a disclaimer that it is a pure fantasy with "no relation to reality". Take that statement to heart, and you're in for nothing more than a hollow spectacle.

Set largely on a fictional Peninsula Airways jet bound for Mexico City, the movie draws less-than-subtle parallels between the frivolous proceedings and the considerably more worrying real-life situations in recession-hit Spain, after the plane is found to have malfunctioning landing gear. It ends up circling aimlessly above the country while waiting for permission to proceed with a crash landing.

The financial crisis in Spain has put over a quarter of its population out of work. Corruption problems involving politicians and the royal family are also loosely referenced in this smutty ensemble film, intended by Almodóvar as a tribute to the early 1980s, the celebratory period in which people basked in their newfound freedom following the end of General Franco's fascist dictatorship.

In the movie, as in real life, no one is sure about where they're heading and how it's all going to end. The lack of direction both on and off-screen is only highlighted by Almodóvar's decision to shoot several of the scenes in a lavish abandoned airport in the heart of La Mancha, a concrete reminder of the ruling bodies' deluded sense of grandeur.

Instead of making a collective effort to safeguard their lives after hearing about the plane's technical glitch, the characters become preoccupied with drowning their troubles.

That goes for the pilots (Hugo Silva and Antonio de la Torre), the gay flight attendants (Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos Areces), and the first-class travellers, an eclectic bunch which includes a celebrity dominatrix (Cecilia Roth).

While sanity soon gives way to a drug and booze-fuelled orgy in business class, the entire economy class is - in one of the film's few sardonic master strokes - doped by the cabin stewards and spends the entire ordeal asleep. In one of the many raunchy jokes in this screwball setting, a clairvoyant (Lola Dueñas) resorts to losing her virginity to one of the unconscious passengers, who clearly represent the masses.

Trading hilarity for sex, sex and more sex, this airborne comedy is at its most liberating when a lip-synched, hysterically choreographed number, set to the Pointer Sisters song I'm So Excited, takes place. As the stewards dance their way through the cabin to keep the distressed travellers entertained, high camp triumphs. In this film, that seems to be the most fun you can have without having sex.

I'm So Excited! opens on July 18