The opening title shot of I’m So Excited informs us that, in true Pedro Almodóvar fashion, the film is not entirely grounded in reality. Strangeness pervades from the first, skewed shot of the plane where the action takes place. This is a world where the alcoholism of the crew is not so much as blinked at, where the drugging of the entire economy-class section is left virtually unexplained and unnoticed. This is even a world where people as glamorous and beautiful as Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, the film’s only real stars, can work in the decidedly unglamorous location of an airport.
Only cameoing, the two Almodóvar regulars set the story in motion, when their inattentiveness causes a landing-gear to break. As a result, the plane must stay in flight until an airport where they can perform an emergency landing is found. The plot unfolds in the business-class section, presenting the reactions, interactions and heavy drinking of the crew and passengers, including a dominatrix-to-the-stars, a honeymooning couple and a corrupt, wanted banker. It’s a surreal group.
Unfortunately though, Almodóvar can’t balance the odd, the funny and the dramatic elements of the film as he has so often managed to do (his last film, 2011’s fantastically horrifying The Skin I Live In, being a perfect example). Unusually for him, I’m So Excited is an out-and-out comedy and it suffers from silliness accordingly: for a director normally so subversive, frank sex chat and camp air stewards are not a stretch.
If he has tried to stretch himself, it’s through his attempt to manage the narrative needs of an ensemble cast lacking a protagonist. Yet, a protagonist is exactly what’s missing. It’s directionless and so we float from character to character, not really engaging with any of them. A digression revealing actor Ricardo Galán’s love-life feels unnecessary and, in a film of 90 minutes, any filler is worrying filler.
Admittedly, there is funny dialogue and a bizarre, yet brilliant, mimed version of the title song singlehandedly rescues the movie from complete dreadfulness. It’s as good-looking as any Almodóvar film, the primary hues creating a rich world from the drab setting of an aeroplane interior but this isn’t enough to rescue what is essentially a substandard comedy. Hopefully, this is just a misstep and Almodóvar will return to his brilliant, subversive best. For now, though, if you’re looking for an aeroplane-disaster-comedy (and who isn’t?), stick to Airplane!