Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited” received a largely underwhelming response earlier this year in the director’s native Spain, as well as a few cranky complaints here; IndieWire, for instance, called it his worst film. Notably absent are the standard Almodovar themes of a sexual predator preying on the powerless (“Talk to Her,” “The Skin I Live In”), or murderous sexual jealousy playing itself out in tragic ways (“Live Flesh,” “Bad Education”).
Even the multi-layered plot structure of most Almodovar comedies is replaced with the pure, bawdy, irreverent sex farce format. This may be seen as sacrilege by Almodovar devotees: the enormous audience at a Thursday night New York City screening barely applauded at film’s end.
To me, “I’m So Excited” represents not so much an off day for the acclaimed director as a day off. Proclaimed by its creator as “my gayest film yet,” “I’m So Excited” is as frivolous and crass as that description belies. It’s also a delightful good time, an orgy of penis jokes, blowjob jokes, S&M jokes, and even lighthearted religion-bashing jokes, all played out in superbly splashy fashion within the claustrophobic confines of a business-class flight cabin.
Three utterly bored, shamelessly flamboyant flight attendants (Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo and Carlos Areces, the latter of whom frighteningly resembles Boy George) and the only slightly more closeted co-pilots (Alex Acero, Hugo Silva) realize the plane is perilously low on fuel in mid-flight. Knowing the passengers will panic, the attendants drug the entire economy class, but the whackier upper-class folks are kept awake; I suppose the joke is that the rich and cynical are less likely to complain about a flight crew’s salacious misconduct.
They include a faded actress-turned-dominatrix (Cecilia Roth), a clairvoyant aching to lose her virginity (Lola Dueñas) and a lothario with too many women in his life (Guillermo Toledo). In the funniest scenes, these whacky folks make emergency calls from a malfunctioning plane phone, which broadcasts all conversations to everyone on board.
Knowing that some of his characters’ subplots are more boring than others, Almodovar shakes up the monotony by throwing in a glisteningly homoerotic dance sequence (to the titular Pointer Sisters track) and a hysterical mescaline trip that sends everyone into an erotic frenzy. Fellatio and other sex acts are performed on the unconscious, but there’s not a shred of creepiness; these strangers on a plane are brought together through a shared subconscious desire for the depraved.
Almodovar can’t resist some surreal flights of fancy (the cellphone of Toledo’s girlfriend, who’s attempting suicide, is dropped into the bicycle basket of Toledo’s ex-girlfriend). Generally, though, “I’m So Excited” is an unpretentious, unapologetic lark, and Almodovar’s relaxed presumptuousness is infectious.
With its X-rated punnery punctuated by lascivious acts, “I’m So Excited” registers like “Airplane!” crossed with early John Waters, and if you find that combination Divine (no pun intended), you might want to run to your local theater before the haters screaming “Heretic!” drive it out of town.
“I’m So Excited” ends with the passengers crash-landing in a pile of sudsy foam.
This movie is as irreverently fun as a bathroom foam fight.