Pedro Almodovar is feeling playful and he's stirred up a number of critics in the process. "Too broad," says Newsday. "An airborne trifle," sniffs the Toronto Star." "An airless, uninvolving movie," says The New York Times.
Well, I found I'm So Excited! odd, silly, engaging, campy, sexually frank and all around entertaining. If you come in expecting The Skin I Live In, Talk to Her or All About My Mother, you may get cranky too. So don't. Just relax and let Almodovar take you for a bumpy ride through the weird, wide sky.
The film opens on the tarmac at a Madrid airport, where an exchange between two workers (Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in cameo appearances) inadvertently ends up damaging the landing gear of a Mexico City-bound plane. The pilots become aware of the problem early in the flight and are ordered to fly in circles while the powers that be try to find an airport that can accommodate what will most likely be a crash landing.
To maintain order, everyone in the economy class section, including the flight attendants, are knocked out with muscle relaxants (!), leaving only the passengers in business class awake for the drama. They are managed by three stereotypically fabulous male flight attendants: the tightly-wound Joserra (Javier Camara), who claims to be incapable of telling a lie; Ulloa (Raul Arevalo), who appears to run on tequila and pills; and poor Fajas (Carlos Areces), who carries around a portable altar.
Falas is the only member of the trio not getting laid. One is the boyfriend of married bisexual pilot Alex (Antonio de la Torre). The other helps straight-but-curious co-pilot Benito (Hugo Silva) reaffirm his heterosexuality by having oral sex with a man to prove that it remains unappealing. Ahem.
The conscious passengers include newlyweds (Miguel Angel Silvestre and Laya Marti), banker Mr. Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo), actor Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), the mysterious Infante (Jose Maria Yaspik), famed dominatrix Norma (Cecilia Roth) and Bruna (Lola Duenas), a self-described virgin psychic who strolls in from economy just to, you know, keep things interesting.
The early part of the story is fueled by the interactions between the three fabulous flight attendants and the two pilots. The passengers are showcased later, with some added drama when they make phone calls to loved ones on the ground on a malfunctioning line that broadcasts their conversations to the entire cabin. Later, the stewards decide everyone would benefit from drinking a shot of a special punch they've concocted that is laced with mescaline. Of course.
If all of this sounds like too much forced wackiness, well, sometimes it does feel a bit strained, but damned if it doesn't work. The actors add specificity to their broad characters, enough of the jokes are actually funny, the melodrama is sufficient soapy and the sense of barely-contained hysteria is nicely sustained.
Alberto Iglesias's score amusingly echoes a number of disaster movie musical notes, and Almodovar adds a few visually striking scenes to the mostly utilitarian cinematography. I'm So Excited! makes some comments about the state of life in contemporary Spain, but unless you're up on all that, I suggest you simply enjoy this little goof of a film from one of our great directors.