The words surreal, strange, fantastical and bizarre have been associated with Pedro Almodovar’s cinema along with longing, fragility, fluidity of gender, and the search for one’s individual sexuality in a world filled with variations from the “norm.” His 2011 movie THE SKIN I LIVE IN encompassed all those terms and I for one was deeply touched by that exceptionally idiosyncratic film. On the other hand, I’M SO EXCITED is Almodovar on his tiptoes – LIGHT and FROTHY. I do not deny that the movie made me laugh out loud, but it never made me ache with confusion and pain. It never touched me beneath the skin I live in.
The bouncy, brightly colored, whimsical, animated opening credits put a smile on the audiences’ faces, setting the mood for the craziness that was to come. The movie bolts onto the screen with cameos by Airline workers, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, two of the finest actors in Almodovar’s repertory. But their cameos are basically a “schtick” - an eccentric bit - with no relation to the rest of the movie, except as a sign that we are about to be launched on a wild ride.
We meet the flight attendants and passengers of Peninsula 2549 – an Airline like no other - bound from Spain to Mexico, and discover early on that there is trouble with the plane’s landing gear which puts everyone at dire risk as the plane circles round and round looking for a place to land. How the crew and passengers deal with the end-of-life/ tying-up-loose-ends business goes to the heart of this comic allegory. Life goes on in the midst of probable death so everyone - actually everyone who is not in Economy Class (they are drugged and asleep) - lets loose and are plied with drinks, drugs and engage in sex – a feast of debauchery including gay and straight sex, anonymous and public couplings. We are privy to personal histories, infidelities, lies and scandals – humanity with all its human failings flung out like baggage for all to see and hear.
Three of the Flight attendants who are all gay, function as a Greek Chorus – commenting on the action, and entertaining the travelers with a wonderfully kinky and freaky rendition of the Pointer Sisters song “I Am So Excited.” These flamboyant stewards are the focus of the movie – their struggles with morality, philosophical musings, religion, and libidinal urges make for a tender, extravagant burlesque. There is also a Cassandra-like character – a predictor of future doom that nobody wants to hear, because the underlying truths make everyone uncomfortable.
I love that Pedro Almodovar works on films that are unpredictable. He experiments with all kinds of genres – some are secret and intimate and others are open and “cosmic”. I admire that he does what he wants and each movie is a challenge. Immediately after the movie ended, I felt that this comedy was both hilarious and often too obviously “over the top.” On further reflection, I realized that what I had perceived as superficiality was a strongly structured jab at our human vulnerabilities – delivered with jest and generosity – all the better to grasp and hold you.