The subjects are different, but the style is unmistakeable. This is an Almodovar film, with a bunch of characters who not only don't act in their own best interests, but whose actions cannot be predicted rationally. In this case, nearly everyone in the crew is gay, from screamingly to not even knowing. The passengers in business class, which is only a quarter occupied, make up the rest of the characters we need to deal with. There is of necessity a great deal of suspension of disbelief, as passengers parade through the cockpit, an economy passenger spends the entire flight wandering around business class and the cockpit, and the intercom phone is used to make calls to the ground, but broadcast over the public address system for all to hear. It doesn't stop anyone from making very personal calls.
The passengers are the usual mix - a dominatrix, a hired assassin, a fleeing, fleecing CEO, a lonely psychic and a self absorbed narcissistic actor. Just like every flight you've ever been on.
The stars are clearly the stewards, whose cartoonish gay affectations, too tight uniforms and karaoke performance to divert the passengers (a fabulous takeoff on the American musical) are the glue that hold everything together.
All in all, a romp different than the usual Almodovar - less puzzling, more gay and a whole lot more fun. If you like Almodovar, you will love I'm So Excited.
I'm So Excited has been described by Almodovar as a very light comedy, and on these terms it does work, having the campest dialogue of any of his films, perhaps, thanks to three delirious flight attendants in First Class. Most of the film takes place on board a flight that should be going from Madrid to Mexico, but is actually circling above Madrid waiting to land at La Mancha airport nearby because of a problem with the wheels. A surreal situation ensues, which perhaps undermines the quick-fire dialogue by making it a bit airless. There is the slight feeling that many elements have been rejigged from Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown: the fickleness of men, where the man in question likewise gives a bird ornament. In that film an LP flung by Carmen Maura hits someone on the back of the head, here it is a wooden bittern-like bird that lands on someone's head. A character cannot lie, as applied to Chus Lampreave in that film; a suitcase containing all the lover's things is unceremoniously dumped in the street, and someone tries to jump from a balcony but is saved. A girl who is a virgin loses her virginity, previously in a dream, in the new film with a man who is asleep ... The earlier film also had a sense of displacement, and one main location, which is here the First Class section. The plane and runway all look a bit unreal, like the apartment model in the earlier film; there is an artificiality that has a kind of surface lustre, and the film is also not short of lust-fuelled moments that give the enterprise a sort of sidelong dirty feel (very diverting ...). The sexiness is also indirect. Some of the actresses are brilliant, as always - here the honours go to Cecilia Roth and Lola Duenas , while the flight attendants, led by a classic Javier Camara, have some of the best lines, and do a fabulous lip-synching number to the Pointer Sisters' song that gives the film its title. They end up giving everyone on board Valencia cocktails with mescaline that leads to erotic abandon. The film can be read as a metaphor for political problems in Spain, particularly a banking scandal and white elephant of an airport at La Mancha, used as a location in the film. This displaced, metaphorical feel does add to its effect, certainly, and makes it a genre-defying, strangely addictive film.
on 20 June 2013
Firstly, of course the anglicised title is a mistake - but how could the English speakers be given the double meaning of the Spanish title effectively? Fleeting Lovers, Passenger Lovers??? etc etc. The title alludes to the fundamental message of the movie - transitoriness.
Secondly, this is a brilliant movie in my view - I found it stunningly funny. There were 9 people in the cinema where I went to see it - during the film, I heard two other people laughing out loudly and frequently, and a couple of quiet sniggers from two other viewers. Apart from that there was little reaction. I was in stitches! I overheard two people outside after the movie tell each other how un-funny they thought it was. So, it is a very polarising movie, it seems.
Of course, the fundamental message is that of Spain sleep-walking into the economic meltdown and crisis, with everyone drugged by the ' boom ' and complicit or agreeing to go along with it; on the whole caught up in the scams and ' kept under ' by the lying and devious stewards - read government.
on 11 March 2016
Pedro Almodóvar’s 19th feature I’m So Excited! (2013, Los amantes pasajeros) was sold by the director as “a light, very light comedy” and that has been how people generally have accepted it. It is one of his most commercially successful films (especially in Spain) but got a mixed reception from critics worldwide, the view being that it is insubstantial, crude and rather pointless. Following the spectacular and deeply satisfying melodramatic complexity of his films announced first of all with the very serious The Flower of My Secret (1995) and developed through masterworks such as Live Flesh (1997), All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002), Bad Education (2004) and Volver (2006), I’m So Excited! seems on first glance to confirm the creative rut that Almodóvar has fallen into along with the over-intricate navel-gazing of Broken Embraces (2009) and the cold genre mechanics of The Skin I Live In (2011). Actually, it’s worth checking again, for this film may in retrospect mark an upturn in his fortunes, the regaining of his artistic mojo which I had thought he lost on Broken Embraces. Buried underneath the light frothy filthy fun of all the camp goings-on aboard an airplane flying in circles unable to land is a very angry political subtext which Almodóvar has acknowledged in interview. On the surface it is all light fun, but underneath it catches the prevailing zeitgeist of a Spain gone to the dogs in a way that recalls the precise pin-pointing of an era in his very first picture Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980), the film which epitomizes the La Movida Madrileña attack on Francoism and the celebration of the new found democratic freedoms.
Indeed, Almodóvar has always been concerned with politics and society in his films even if he has always been attacked by people on both sides of the poltical spectrum for being too frivolous, and he has generally avoided admitting in public that his films are serious in this way. Almodóvar is savvy about marketing his product and perhaps that lies behind a reluctance to admit openly that his films amount to almost 40 years of commentary on the dramatic transition in Spain from fascism to democracy which has been essayed in film after film exploring transience and identity search which take place in three general arenas – politics and society, the human body and in film-making itself. It is refreshing to see Almodóvar finally coming clean in I’m So Excited! by making explicit his stand on the left as a critic of the incumbent corrupt conservative power structure. He says the film is “the most political film I’ve ever made, and the most local. Local to Spain, that is…The passengers are going around in circles, they don’t know where they’re going to land or how they’re going to land. And in real life we don’t know how we’re going to get out of this [economic recession], who will be in command, what the risks are and how dangerous it is. For the Spanish people it’s a very clear metaphor for society.”
For non-Spanish people I’m So Excited! is primarily a light camp comedy and perhaps that has always been the basis of misunderstanding for how Almodóvar’s films have been understood by audiences around the world. Spanish people recognize the director as a cultural symbol of a light joyous era of Spanish history sandwiched between 40 years of Francoism on one side and 30 years of economic gloom and doom on the other. Spanish people may not all like him, but no doubt they do ‘connect’ exactly with what Almodóvar is all about, whereas foreigners must reach in from the outside to get at his essence whilst constantly being dazzled by the surface ‘frivolity’ of prancing Jocks in frocks, sexual licentiousness and pill-popping junky wet dreams all encased within ludicrous over-ripe melodrama and visualized in the most gaudy primary colors. With all the tacky kitsch on display it’s a tough ask for foreigners to buy Almodóvar’s deeper socio-political resonances and this film is no different from the rest.
The fun and games start before the Airbus A340 takes off for Mexico on the tarmac of Madrid’s Barajas airport as León and Jessica (a delightful cameo scene for Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas) screw up their job as ground staff due to a sudden announced pregnancy. They forget to remove the landing chocks which get tangled up with the landing gear so making it impossible for the plane to land once air-born. Cut to a couple of hours later and inflight we find the flight-crew dealing with the problem. Economy class passengers are all knocked out with a ‘muscle relaxant’ and we meet the various passengers in first class who are allowed to party on as they deal with the truth of their predicament. These characters are Ricardo Galán (Guillermo Toledo), a Casanova-actor clearly based on Ivan from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988); Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth), a dominatrix-proprietor of a luxury escort service en-route to service a client; Bruna (Lola Dueñas), a good-natured but naïve psychic virgin en-route to Mexico to find dead bodies for a nefarious organization; Mr. Más (José Luis Torrijo), a corrupt banker on the run from the authorities; Infante (José María Yazpik), a sinister ‘security advisor’ on a mysterious mission; and two nameless newly-weds (Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Laya Martí) en-route to their honeymoon and horny as hell. Taking care of them are three gay and very camp stewards, Joserra (Javier Cámara), Fajardo (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo); and piloting the plane are Captain Acero (Antonio de la Torre) and co-pilot Benito Morón (Hugo Silva). Gender-bending is on the menu from the get-go, but when the stewards start knocking back the tequila and the passengers start reacting to the possibility of looming death the film escalates wildly into a drunken, drug-fuelled farce, the highlights of which including a brilliant rendition of The Pointer Sisters’ title song (worth the price of admission alone to see) mimed by the stewards, and a mescaline-spiked Valencia cocktail-induced orgy in which everyone lets their hair down. It would be tedious and criminal to give away the plot, but there is a delicious sub-plot coming from the philandering Ricardo Galán calling his girlfriend Alba (Paz Vega) who is about to jump from a high bridge because he has just dumped her. The call stops her jumping, but she drops the phone and it lands in the bag of Ruth (Blanca Suárez), another of Ricardo’s exes who is still recovering herself from being dumped. Those familiar with Women on the Verge… will relish what transpires, Carmen Machi playing the Chus Lampreave role and Suárez playing a young version of Carmen Maura’s Pepa. All the characters have their own stories to tell and the total effect is fast, furious and very funny with all the performances spot on. Cámara and Dueñas are always a joy to watch and those who remember de la Torre’s macho monster husband Paco in Volver will be astonished to see the sensitive bi-sexual pilot he essays here. Grasping her role with full gusto most of all for me though is Cecilia Roth returning here as Almodóvar’s eternal whore after her wondrous knockout performance as Manuela in All About My Mother. Terrifying as the first class passenger from hell organizing a petition protest against the cabin crew, with an aphrodisiac inside her there’s no holding back this woman…
I’m So Excited! is Almodóvar’s first straight up comedy since Women on the Verge… and perhaps many people took offence at it because it seems so fanciful and disconnected with anything substantial. Women on the Verge… works partly because it is rooted in Jean Cocteau’s La Voix humaine and the seriousness of a pregnant woman being jilted. It is also a statement of one of Almodóvar’s most trenchant, most enduring themes – women surviving the evils of men. This one is much harder to quantify for foreign audiences, but clearly the filthy farce isn’t so fanciful once we relate it to the film’s socio-political undertow. Clearly Spanish people would delight in the farce (so much high-speed Spanish flashing past lightning quick suggests there must be so many nuances English subtitles cannot hope to catch), but they would also grasp the plane as a metaphor for Spain with the passengers a metaphor for themselves. The working class knocked out while the filthy rich party on upstairs is how many people in the depression weary country see the real situation. One of the first class passengers (Mr. Más) is a corrupt bank president who is fleeing the country after having “swindled thousands,” especially over hugely expensive white elephant government construction projects financed on the never-never such as the Ciudad Real airport which cost a billion euros and is now closed. The airport is referenced in the script as well as used by Almodóvar to shoot the final images as the plane crash-lands. The fact that Almodóvar points his camera at the deserted concourse of the airport as we hear the plane land outside speaks volumes of the hopelessness of the situation of Spain making the tacked-on happy ending merely obligatory wishful thinking. Earlier, Mr. Más also reads his newspaper and we see an article entitled “Top 10 Political scandals.” As everyone knows Spain has been embroiled in scandals for decades at every level from the King on down, and Norma Boss gets great pleasure in telling everyone that she has incriminating photos of all the top people including No.1 (the King) so that the whole power-structure is suggested to be exploited and corrupt.
Perhaps key to understanding this film is that all the farcical frivolity refers back to the 1980s and the radical spirit of La Movida Madrileña. As Almodóvar says, “I tried to recapture the same mood when I was writing in the Eighties, when Madrid had changed. The movie is a tribute to the Eighties. That was when we started with democracy and there was an incredible explosion of freedom in every sense. So in the movie, the passengers and stewards drink a lot, scream a lot, **** a lot and take drugs. For me that was the spirit of the decade – but above all it breathes freedom.” The music chosen and the very deliberate use of his most successful film of that decade (Women on a Verge…) couples with the camped-up goings-on we relate especially to the first two movida films he made, Pepi, Luci, Bom and Labyrinth of Passion (1982) to make for what amounts to a protest at what is happening right now in Spain couched in the movida language everyone connects with that brief period of Spanish history when the people experienced freedom and hope. It’s interesting that Almodóvar is now strongly connected with 15-M, a youth protest movement disenchanted not only with the ruling centre-Right People’s Party, but with all political parties. With most politicians selling out the interests of the people to corporate and banking interests, it is no wonder many Spanish people have lost confidence in the political system that controls them and it wouldn’t be over-stating it to picture Almodóvar seeing the current situation as being the ‘new’ fascism with the period of the 80s seeming to be increasingly representative of hope and freedom lost the more time passes. I’m So Excited! couldn’t have been more timely, working as a hilarious farce on the surface whilst lashing out at the powers that be underneath. Strongly recommended.
on 12 August 2013
The latest film by Pedro Almodovar is unexpectedly light but it is also undeniably funny. The unlikely source for inspiration by the Spanish auteur seems to be the hilarious film Airplane! (1980), which itself was a parody of the 1970s disaster movies.
A plane bound from Madrid to Mexico soon finds itself in serious trouble, flying in circles and looking for a runway for emergency landing after its landing gear is found to be broken (thanks to a couple of clumsy ground crew workers played at the beginning of the movie by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in very fast cameos).
With a plane male crew that seems to be about 80% gay (the movie includes tons of gay jokes), the first class (the tourist class has been conveniently drugged) includes a corrupt businessman on the run, a women who is both a psychic and a virgin desperately trying to end being one, an aging lothario, a porn actress (Almodovar regular Cecilia Roth) who claims to have hundreds of sex videos of Spains's most powerful men, and a mystery man who turns out to be a Mexican hit man.
The comic highlight of the movie has the three gay male stewards perform a campy cover of the Pointer Sisters catchy hit "I'm so excited" (hence the title of the film in English).
The movie is certainly not very deep, and some Almodovar fans will probably be disappointed, but those who watch it with an open mind and are not easily offended by raunchy humor, will probably find themselves entertained.