'I'm So Excited': Almodóvar's flight of fancy is worth the trip
By Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
This comedy is the least overtly ambitious picture that Spanish cinema iconoclast Pedro Almodóvar has made in the 21st century. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like all of his movies, "I'm So Excited" is bursting with color, sass and sexiness, but unlike such recent masterpieces as "All About My Mother," "Talk to Her" and "Volver," it doesn't aim to mix comedy and tragedy in unexpected and risky ways. While "I'm So Excited" doesn't settle for pure farce, it maintains a light feel throughout, which one supposes is apt, as most of the movie is set on an airplane in flight.
"Tour the world/in a heavy metal band/but they run out of gas/the plane can never land." That funny lyric from an old They Might Be Giants song occurred to me as this movie, um, took off. After a prologue in which international superstars and Almodóvar veterans Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz make cameo appearances as runway functionaries whose personal distractions actually cause the subsequent snafu, an airplane making a flight from Toledo, Spain, to Mexico City winds up circling over its city of origin. The landing gear is messed up, so the plane has to find a runway on which to more or less crash-land. In the often narcotized world of Almodóvar, the wacky flight attendants quelling potential passenger unrest by drugging the entirety of economy into unconsciousness doesn't seem that farfetched. The first-class passengers are tougher to placate, and between them, the crew and the aforementioned flight attendants (a gay bunch in several respects, who at one point attempt to entertain their charges by lip-synching the title Pointer Sisters song in a hilarious musical number), we have a veritable ship of fools and a microcosm of contemporary Spain's 1 percent.
Almost all of these characters, including a notorious courtesan (Cecilia Roth), a famous actor (Guillermo Toledo), a buttoned-up banker (José Luis Torrijo) and a hit man (José Maria Yazpik), are on the run from someone or something, and the movie returns to earth every now and then to fill out their stories, which are of course filled with the kind of near-Dickensian coincidences in which Almodóvar tends to revel. As for the mostly male crew and attendants, they're gossipy, intramurally involved in all sorts of knotty ways and understandably anxious as to whether they'll survive this sojourn in the sky. The nearness of sudden death prompts all the characters to reveal sides of themselves they would not in civilized conversation, and one character, on her way to middle-age virginhood, takes direct action to make up for lost time.
The scene in which she does so is rather reminiscent of that airplane-bathroom-shampoo commercial that's been making the rounds lately. Although its plot presents an allegory of present-day Spain in the throes of economic collapse (the empty airport of La Mancha to which several characters refer is not a fictional conceit but a real-life boondoggle), the movie can get awfully silly in its details, and your tolerance for such high-spirited sexy high jinks will determine how well you enjoy this movie. I had a pretty good time, and I think it's healthy for a filmmaker to not swing for the fences every time out. That said, in a year or two, when Almodóvar presents whatever his next film will be, I'm hoping for a masterpiece rather than a diversion.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.