Pedro Almodóvar has said that he has often contemplated making a film in the English language. I suspect I’m So Excited would have been the perfect film with which to start. This colourful comedy, set on a malfunctioning aeroplane, is one of the campest films he has ever made (which is saying something), so imagine what Carry On fun he could have had with ‘cockpits’, ‘touch down’ and ‘oversized baggage’ as opposed to their less-euphemistic Spanish equivalents.
On the flight, destined for Mexico but doomed to ‘doing circles around Toledo’, we have three out-and-proud flight attendants (one alcoholic, one pill-popper and one Hindu), two sexually-confused pilots, a drugs mule, a psychic and a high-class dominatrix. If you think this sounds like early Almodóvar, you’d be right, and I’m So Excited recalls the director at his most fun, his most rebellious and his most absurd. In a nod to the spiked gazpacho of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1987), the flight staff numb the passengers to the impending danger with Bucks Fizz laced with mescaline, while there’s more than one Labyrinth of Passion-style love triangle (1982), and the cabaret and lip-synching used to emotional effect in High Heels (1991) and Law of Desire (1986) are reinvented here by a hysterical song-and-dance number to the film’s title track.
It’s a relief to welcome back a puerile Almodóvar after the knowing Broken Embraces (2009) and the dark melodrama of The Skin I Live In (2011), and – with colours as bright as a high-vis jacket and his usual parade of interesting faces – nearly every frame of this film is a joy to behold.
I’m So Excited is not an entirely smooth ride though. An ensemble piece with numerous interweaving stories, the strongest plot points take place in the cabin, despite Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz putting in game cameos on the ground. And, although one of the characters is given a key part in the film’s emotional and narrative denouement, it’s hard to care too much about a passenger who spends most of the film conked out.
More problematic still are the film’s two rape scenes. That there are any rape scenes may escape many viewers, and this ambiguity appears to be an emerging motif in the director’s body of work (the Skin I Live In is a case in point). It might be po-faced to get moralistic with a director as irreverent and loveable as Almodóvar, but the fact is that having sex with someone who is drugged and/or asleep is rape, and that it’s not treated as such is alarming. Almodóvar made light of rape in the early film Kika (1993) and was upbraided for it then. The difference is that Kika’s response to her rape was arguably funny and part of a grander narrative about the metaphorical ‘rape’ of subjects by the media. Similarly, the director made child abuse funny in What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1984) and terrorism funny in Women On The Verge. But the rape in I’m So Excited is not funny, it’s flippant, and, for someone capable of writing an otherwise tight and comedic script, he should know better.
Luckily for him, it’s bad turbulence and not a fatal crash. Tourists to his wacky world won’t be disappointed, and those with him for the long haul will be pleased to see he is at least travelling in the right direction.
Watch the trailer: