Saturday, July 13, 2013

I'M SO EXCITED (LOS AMANTES PASAJEROS) (2013)

Written & Directed By Pedro Almodóvar


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. July 1, 2013 1:45PM


After a number of well-received, dark melodramas that earned him new-found respect as a filmmaker (as well as a few Oscars), Pedro Almodóvar is back with a new comedy, "I'm So Excited". At first, it appears to be a return to form of his delightfully frothy sex comedies that helped put this Spanish director on the world's radar. However, this film is very far from his best work, in fact, it's so bad that I came incredibly close to walking out in the middle of this mess. On the surface, it feels very much like a classic Almodóvar film, a Technicolor fantasia laced with his trademark absurdist humor but here it's far too heavy-handed and inconsistent, lacking his usual graceful style and finesse.

On Peninsula Airlines, a flight from Madrid bound for Mexico City seems to have run in to a serious problem. A mechanical issue with the plane means that they need to make an emergency landing in Toledo (Spain, not Ohio which is thankfully cleared up in the film). The head pilot (Antonio de la Torre) has advised his first-class stewards to handle this matter discretely and delicately. Unfortunately, he's got the wrong crew to try and keep calm in the cabin. These three wildly flamboyant men each fit a specific type; one is overly dramatic, the other high-strung and of course, there has to be one that is preoccupied with sex. The drama queen, Joserra (Javier Cámara) explains that after a tragic situation, he can no longer ever tell a lie. That makes his current situation particularly difficult, not to mention trying to keep secret the special relationship he has with the married captain. Fajas (Carlos Areces) is the most low-key of the group (which isn't saying much) who obsessively prays for other people's sins while he proceeds to gossip about their evil-doings. Finally, Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) struggles to keep his strong carnal desires in check, most especially with the handsome, sexually-ambiguous co-pilot (Hugo Silva) on board.

The stewards have come up with the ideal solution to deal with this life-threatening crisis; to get themselves as drunk as possible. Another thing this foolhardy bunch agreed upon is that the passengers in economy class shouldn't have to endure the stress of this potential disaster, so they've all been knocked-out with a cocktail of sedatives. However, the first-class cabin is wide awake, noticed that the plane is flying in circles and now demanding some answers. These wealthy passengers are a difficult and very challenging bunch with some of Almodóvar regulars including Cecilia Roth ("All About My Mother") and Lola Dueñas ("Volver") filling in these roles.  With their lives hanging in the balance, they slowly reveal the secrets of their mysterious lives and complicated passions publicly. These events make them feel so liberated that it even leads a few to become members of the Mile High Club.

The film appears inspired by the light romantic comedies of the 1960's except it's very much of the moment where you can now get away with a not-so-subtle visual sight-gag involving semen. Even Doris Day wouldn't want to be involved with "I'm So Excited" and not necessarily due to the more raunchy elements but because this lacks any of the breezy charm and comic wit of the movies of her generation. Almodóvar has built his career on this type of campy farce so, it's quite surprising how dated and uninspired this turned out. Even with what is supposed to be the film's most outrageous moment, that features our trio lip-syncing while dancing manically to the song that inspired the film's English-language title by The Pointer Sisters, it will leave you utterly bewildered and unamused much like the passengers on the plane. While the choreography is cute but it all goes on for far too long. Besides, everybody knows that if you're going to have guys miming along to female singers, they really should be wearing wigs and high-heels. That's part of fun.

Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz make cameo appearances at the begining of the film as part of the baggage crew. It's sad to say that the brief prescence of these two glittering Almodóvar veterans is actually the highlight of the film. "I'm So Excited" fails to capture the madcap spirit and wacky banter that we love about this filmmaker. It ends up feeling nothing more than some inferior filmmaker trying to make their version of an Almodóvar extravaganza.