I recently flew aboard a plane with a singing flight attendant. Her voice trembled as she thanked us for flying with Southwest and wished us a wonderful day. Half the passengers looked charmed. Others dug for their airsick bags. Pedro Almodóvar's airborne romp I'm So Excited! will prompt equally divisive reactions. Leaving behind the dark psychology of his recent work, Almodóvar here offers up a fizzy, campy, hallucinogen-spiked cocktail of a film, the collision of a sex farce, a disaster movie and a morality tale. For those willing to gate-check their snobbery, it's a winking delight and a welcome throwback to Almodóvar's early comedic capers—and, at 90 minutes, shorter than a flight from Portland to San Francisco.
I'm So Excited! is set almost entirely inside the candy-colored cabin of a jetliner bound from Madrid to Mexico. But due to some trouble with the landing gear, the plane must circle in the air as its passengers prepare for disaster in gleefully discrepant ways—while one flight attendant turns to tequila, another unfolds his portable altar and prays for everyone's souls. The hoi polloi back in coach have been drugged with muscle relaxants, leaving the first-class elite free to imbibe, yammer, fuck and then imbibe some more. It's a colorful group, including a virginal psychic (an appealingly wide-eyed Lola Dueñas), who contacts the beyond through the pilots' crotches; a dominatrix to the rich and famous (Cecilia Roth), who's convinced everything is a plot against her; and a sleazeball actor (Guillermo Toledo), who spends much of the flight on the phone with lovers he's spurned. Managing the hedonistic madness is the ultra-flamboyant trio of flight attendants, who spike the punch with mescaline and fondle the airplane seats while lip-synching the Pointer Sisters song that gives the film its English title.
With its drugged beverages, telephones falling from the sky and sex-obsessed characters, I'm So Excited! recalls the frisky absurdity of 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. But while that movie—made in a Spain just beginning to emerge from beneath Franco's repression—felt transgressive, this newest bauble lacks that sense of fire. The circling plane is something of a ham-fisted allegory for Spain's current financial predicament, but Almodóvar lets that metaphor spiral as aimlessly as the aircraft. Even so: Disaster may loom, but why not party while you can?
Critic's Grade: B+
SEE IT: I'm So Excited is rated R. It opens Friday at Cinema 21.