Their plane malfunctioning and the future of everyone aboard uncertain, flight attendants Joserra (Javier Cámara), Fajas (Carlos Areces), and Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) do what any respectable person in their field would do: seek to raise their passengers’ spirits. Before doling out cocktails laced with mescaline to get the travelers happy and chatty, the trio break into a well-rehearsed cabaret performance of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” a true showstopper packed with finess lip-synching and ridiculous choreography. The performance concluded and their unimpressed audience questioning such an odd choice, Fajas replies, “We’re just trying to distract you.” It’s a sequence and statement so respectively wild and simple that writer/director Pedro Almodóvar intends the retort not merely for the situation at hand or even merely his new film, but in relation to all entertainment. After such a standout stretch, naming the film after anything but the aforementioned dance anthem (exclamation mark included) seems inappropriate and helps unite what at times is a disjointed path to Fajas’ ultimate goal.
I’m So Excited! begins in full star-power mode with Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas in a fun, soapy scene that results in damaging the landing gear of Peninsula Flight 2549. Flash forward an hour and a half with the plane up in the air and the flight attendants have given the economy class (and their female co-workers) muscle relaxers so they “don’t have to deal with their problems.” That leaves the all-male crew, each of whom is gay or has some homosexual leanings, and the upper-crust business class, comprised of philandering actor Ricardo Galán (Guillermo Toledo); the aptly-named financial swindler Sr. Más (José Luis Torrijo); drug mule honeymooners (Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Laya Martí); legendary blackmailing dominatrix Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth); a psychic quasi-detective Bruna (Lola Dueñas), who’s also a virgin; and “security adviser” Infante (José María Yazpik).
Of these diverse fliers, most of their issues (e.g. sexuality, social status, love, and money) feel universal yet come with slightly esoteric commentary on contemporary Spanish society. Not one to limit his films’ reach, Almodóvar excels at giving the passengers’ exchanges flashes of emotions and lets a few develop beyond quick bursts, namely a stretch involving two of Ricardo’s former lovers down on the ground. As a result, the full significance of each character type may not be crystal clear and don’t necessarily connect all that smoothly, but their interactions relay a certain feeling in the moment, the sum of which is more than sufficient to sustain the distraction.
Well made, humorous throughout, and with a few nifty twists of fate, I’m So Excited is a mixed goodie bag made divine by its high-altitude circumstances. While some say Almodóvar lost his way with this latest extravaganza, for me he reached the summit, just on an enjoyably different path.
Rated R for strong sexual content including crude references, and drug use.
I’m So Excited! is currently playing at the Fine Arts Theatre on Biltmore Ave.