In the opening scene of Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited, two ground crew members, played by Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, get distracted while prepping a plane for take-off, triggering the events of the movie before disappearing, not to be seen again. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (2007), in which Bill Murray (who’d starred in every Wes Anderson film since Rushmore) misses the eponymous train, symbolically passing the torch to Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody. But while The Darjeeling Limited turned out to be perhaps the most Wes Andersonesque film Wes Anderson ever made, and a pretty great movie in its own right, I’m So Excited is, at its best, no more than minor Almodóvar. And at its worst, it’s just plain bad Almodóvar.
Most of the action takes place aboard a plane to Mexico, between the cockpit and the business class section. When the pilots realize that something is stuck in the landing gear, they decide to try to make an emergency landing somewhere in Spain, and they spend the next hour and a half flying in circles, waiting for an available airport. Soon the business class passengers learn of the problem (in a nice throwaway gag, everyone in coach has been drugged by the crew so as to limit panic), and the crew’s attempts to distract and entertain them all seem to backfire spectacularly.
Everyone in I’m So Excited feels like a familiar Almodóvar type. The three flight attendants, led by the alcoholic Joserra, are all gay, and rather flamboyantly so. The pilot’s a married bisexual man having an affair with Joserra, while his co-pilot keeps telling everyone that he is straight but mostly seems to be protesting too much. The passengers include Norma, an aging high-class prostitute/dominatrix; Bruna, a woman who claims to have psychic powers and to still be a virgin (“because my powers scare men away”); and actor Ricardo Galán, a tortured womanizer. Add drugged-out newlyweds, a corrupt executive on the run, and a dark and mysterious man from Mexico, and it starts to feel a lot like a Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! or High Heels cast reunion.
In fact, most everything in I’m So Excited feels similarly recycled from other, better Almodóvar movies. Dick jokes make up what feels like half the film, and after a while, the question of whether or not giving another man a blowjob makes you gay stops being funny (the joke goes on way past that point, and ends in an utterly predictable manner). The characters are paper-thin, seeming only to exist because Almodóvar thinks there’s something inherently funny about, say, an overweight, flamboyantly gay flight attendant who’s also a devout Catholic. As it turns out, not really, or at least not so much that you can hope for it to carry your movie for 90 minutes.
Too often, the film feels like the set-up to a joke with no punch line. Things keep getting brought up and discarded almost immediately, like the mysterious event Joserra keeps referring to throughout the movie’s first half, and which turns out to be neither funny nor relevant to what little plot there is. Every character comes with a similarly rushed backstory, which is subsequently used for jokes that all too often fall flat. (The relationship between the captain and Joserra does pay dividends at the very end, though, with a twist that isn’t exactly unexpected but nevertheless manages to be funny.) And then there’s that long scene when Ricardo Galán, a popular actor and apparently quite the ladies’ man, uses the plane’s emergency phone to call up the suicidal girl he just abandoned, only to end up talking, thanks to one of the most contrived coincidences in the history of cinema, to another one of his exes. It’s a baffling sequence, not only because it drags on way too long and utterly fails to be funny, but also because it takes us out of the plane for no real reason. There’s no payoff to the scene, no particular insight to be gained from Galán’s realization that he may have ruined the one thing that actually mattered to him by sleeping around. That’s a problem that plagues the entire movie; even when the jokes land (no pun intended), the whole thing feels empty and cheap. Much like the plane it’s set on, I’m So Excited doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Halfway through the movie, Joserra and his acolytes, trying to keep the passengers from freaking out, launch into a song and dance number set to the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” (hence the film’s international title, of course). They lip-synch, dance, and grind against one another and against the increasingly uncomfortable passengers, in a sequence that’s funnier and filmed with more enthusiasm and energy than the rest of the movie put together. For three minutes, we see just how crazy I’m So Excited could have been. But when the music stops, what we’re left with is a movie that, in spite of all its talk of sex and scenes of aerial orgies, remains resolutely and disappointingly tame.
Gaël Schmidt-Cléach is a French critic and writer. He currently resides in Paris, but can also be found on Twitter (@gschmidtcleach).
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar
Producers: Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García
Director of Photography: José Luis Alcaine
Editor: José Salcedo
Costume Design: David Delfín, Tatiana Hernández
Original Music: Alberto Iglesias
Cast: Javier Cámara (Joserra), Carlos Areces (Fajas), Raúl Arévalo (Ulloa), Antonio de la Torre (Álex), Hugo Silva (Benito), Cecilia Roth (Norma), Guillermo Toledo (Ricardo Galán), Lola Dueñas (Bruna), José María Yazpik (Infante), José Luis Torrijo (Senior Más)
Runtime 90 minutes