Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: "I'm So Excited"

Director: Pedro Almodovar
Runtime: 90 minutes

Though by no means a masterpiece, Pedro Almodovar's I'm So Excited has, perhaps, been judged too harshly. It's hard to see anyone ranking the film as one of the Spanish auteur's best, but this is no disaster. Rather, it's a return to the camp(ier?) tone and style of Almodovar's earlier works. The results may be far from the director's top tier achievements, and it certainly doesn't linger long after the credits, but this is still a largely enjoyable endeavor from one of world cinema's top talents. It's disposable and lightweight fluff that only Almodovar could whip up.

After taking a sharp left turn into body horror territory with 2011's The Skin I Live In, Almodovar immediately announces his return to lighter fare in his new film's bouncy opening credits. Only minutes later, we've joined the crew and passengers of a flight from Madrid to Mexico City. Yet after only a few hours, the flight crew discovers that the plane is having significant technical difficulties that could force them to make a crash landing. Thankfully, the flight attendants are good at improvising, and knock out the majority of the passengers by slipping muscle relaxers into their drinks, leaving only the collection of oddballs in business class to entertain while the pilots (Antonio de la Torre and Hugo Silva), wait for news from ground control. 

Yet despite being a "bottle movie" (one where characters are confined to a single space), I'm So Excited is anything but stifled by its setting. In fact, the film's weakest stretch comes when Almodovar makes the unwise decision to take us back down to earth for roughly 15 minutes. All of the characters, as is to be expected, have their own secrets and scandals, but the character whose subplot involves seeing other characters on the ground is almost forgotten after the segment ends. There's so much fun interplay across the cast members trapped on the plane (stand-outs include Cecilia Roth, Lola Duenas, and Raul Arevalo), but the earthbound sequence nearly lets all of the air out of the narrative.

But even with such a considerable bump, the film is rarely short of enjoyable, even as its campiness is sometimes too broad for its own good. The cast are all enjoying themselves, playing everything from alcoholic attendants to clairvoyant virgins effortlessly. As secrets come to light, and the film becomes a flat-out sex farce, the story only becomes more of an over-the-top delight. The cast are all completely on point, playing up the heightened comedy and melodrama without ever becoming too serious or condescending towards their characters. By forcing the characters to interact with each other via the setting, there's hardly a dull moment as this herd of eccentrics comes to grips with their secrets and their possible demises.

The shadow of a calamitous death looms in the background of the entire film, yet there is never a heaviness to Almodovar's writing or directing. Leave it to the Spanish maestro to craft a comedy where even the chance of a fiery death never drags down the buoyant proceedings. If one was ever in doubt that the film could maintain its breezy atmosphere, Almodovar throws in a lip-synced musical number that has to go down as one of the liveliest and most enjoyable scenes of his entire career. As the trio of male flight attendants lip-sync along to the titular song, it's difficult to resist the film's infectious spirit. 

And, aside from that nagging subplot in the middle, it's hard to have much ill will towards I'm So Excited. The film is not so much defined by massive flaws as it is simply by never striving to be anything greater. Labeling the film as Almodovar on auto-pilot suggests that the director is barely trying. Rather, this mile-high sex comedy is simply Almodovar having a bit of fun. Its aspirations are limited, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do: provide a snappy, goofy, and delightful time. Just as the the flight attendants do their best to distract the passengers from the possibility of an untimely end, Almodovar and company seek only to provide a bit of fun that's never meant to be anything more than a light-as-a-feather diversion.

Grade: B-

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