Pedro Almodovar returns to broad comedy for the first time in years with I’m So Excited!, yet I wouldn’t exactly call the movie a joyous lark. This is an apocalypse comedy, if anything – gleeful self-distraction in the face of impending doom.
The literal threat in the film is the defective landing gear of Peninsula Flight 2549, where most of the action takes place. Circling above Spain and waiting for a runway on which to attempt an emergency crash landing, the flight crew and passengers indulge in all sorts of drink, drugs and sexual escapades in order to take their mind off their likely demise. It’s a bacchanal while Rome is burning.
The mirth is laced with a persistent foreboding.
In truth, these folks didn’t need much prodding. Joserra (Javier Camara), the head steward, is serving tequila shots in the cockpit even before the danger has been announced (these guys must have all gone through the same training as Denzel Washington’s pilot in Flight). Sexual tension is already in the air, considering Joserra and the first captain (Antonio de la Torre) are having an affair, while another steward (Carlos Areces) claims a newlywed passenger (Miguel Angel Silvestre) keeps winking at him while his fiancé sleeps. Oh, and there’s also a legendary dominatrix in business class.
Almodovar usually treats such elements with a sense of liberation, and there is some of that here. Facing death, many of the characters drop whatever pretenses they’ve had – sexual and otherwise – and find relief in their (final?) moments of honesty. Yet if I’m So Excited! doesn’t quite capture the madcap delirium of something like Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, it’s because the mirth is laced with a persistent foreboding. This is why the stewards’ big dance number – a lip synced rendition of the Pointer Sisters song of the title – is delightfully silly, yet also met by the passengers with irritation or nonplussed stares.
Why the dissonance? Almodovar has always been more of a personal director than a political one, so the movie likely intends to do nothing more than use the threat of tragedy as a means for embracing one’s (largely sexual) identity. Yet if you also see this airplane as a microcosm for the world at large, the film functions as a stinging satire. (References to a financial scandal in Spain suggest Almodovar might also be thinking about this.) As European economies threaten to crumble and fires burn in Turkey, Brazil and who knows where next, most of us just pop in our earbuds and down a Lime-A-Rita. What’s that? Dozens killed in new Egyptian protests? I’m so excited!