Almodovar’s Flight Of Fantasy

They're so excited.  Are we?

They’re so excited. Are we?

Title:                          I’m So Excited 

Certificate:               15

Director:                   Pedro Almodovar

Major Players:         Javier Camara, Antonio de la Torre

Out Of Five?            3

If the number of film journalists at the screening I attended was anything to go by, an Almodovar movie is an occasion.  There was hardly a spare seat. But the director’s legions of fans may not be overly happy with his latest offering.  After the psychological complexity of The Skin I Live In and the nostalgic feel of Broken Embraces, here we have something completely different.  It’s almost as if it’s been made by Almodovar on a day off.

As they take off for Mexico, the passengers on Peninsula Flight 2549 have no idea that a technical failure has put them all in danger.  In the face of this, the pilots and crew focus themselves on distracting the people in their charge, using a variety of less than conventional methods.  They need to, as the group of passengers in Business Class are particularly challenging.

My initial reaction was to think that I’m So Excited was a spoof of a spoof and, while in hindsight, I don’t think that’s what Almodovar intends it to be, it does look over its shoulder in the direction of Airplane.  Look at the list of passengers: a hitman, a newly married drug mule and his wife, a former porn-star-turned-celebrity, a psychic looking to lose her virginity and a swindling financier wracked with guilt (his name, appropriately enough, is Mr Mas – mas being Spanish for “more”).  All we’re missing is the guitar-playing nun.

That is, however, where the similarity ends.  The director seems to be more interested in seeing how people face the ultimate challenge in their life – death – which is a mighty theme for such a camp, feather weight comedy.  And, in truth, he doesn’t go into it in any great depth.

Almodovar is in a playful, almost flirty mood.  The majority of the comedy – which frequently comes close to farce – is set within the confines of the plane, concentrating the action.  We don’t see much of the economy class passengers or their stewardesses – mainly because they’ve all been given a ‘muscle relaxant’ to keep them quiet and they’re all fast asleep.  The three stewards in Business Class are more caricatures than characters, not so much as camp as a row of tents as a field full of marquees.  We are, however, told right at the beginning of the film that what we’re about to see has nothing to do with reality, so a more naturalistic style would have been totally out of place.  Instead, they’re allowed to go over the top with gusto.

The best scene in the film comes towards the end. When the plane lands at the climax of the film, Almodovar very neatly takes you up a blind alley.  The shots of the deserted, silent airport interiors combined with the sound of the plane screeching to land on the other side of closed doors, imply that the landing hasn’t gone well.  It doesn’t spoil things to know that it goes to plan, so much so that all the characters needing to resolve their relationships have ample opportunity and all the loose ends are tied up very neatly.

Despite its contemporary setting, the film has a very 60s feel.  The stewards’ uniforms look like something straight out of the 60s, the soundtrack sounds as if it’s been lifted from a Hitchcock thriller of the same vintage and Metronomy’s The Look which, despite being released in 2011, also has the sound of the same era.  And the graphics at the end and beginning of the film are in the same retro style too.  In case you’re wondering, the eponymous song from The Pointer Sisters is in the film and will probably never be the same again, once you’ve seen the three stewards perform their dance routine.

The film has been well and truly hammered by some critics.  It’s not Almodovar’s best by any means, and it has the feel of a director wanting to make a film simply to have a good time.  For anybody who’s not seen any of his other films, it could be a good way of easing yourself in, with the proviso that comedy isn’t his usual stomping ground.  It’s rather like Spanish tapas: enjoyable, varied and tasty, but not wholly satisfying and leaving you wanting a more substantial main course.

I’m So Excited is on general release from Friday, 3 May.

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