Pedro Almodovar’s ‘I’m So Excited!’ is more than a light comedy

Carlos Areces, Raul Arevalo and Javier Camara strut their stuff in "I'm So Excited." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Carlos Areces, Raul Arevalo and Javier Camara strut their stuff in “I’m So Excited!”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘I’m So Excited!’
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Stars: Javier Camara, Carlos Areces
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

“Everything that happens in this film is a fiction or fantasy,” reads a title card at the start of Pedro Almodovar’s latest. Traditionally that line is buried at the end of the credits, somewhere between the song list and a copyright year presented in Roman numerals. That it goes at the front of what’s been sold as a frothy, absurdly colorful light comedy should trigger alarm bells, warning viewers that perhaps one shouldn’t read this as only a frothy, absurdly colorful light comedy. The Spanish filmmaker’s last two films, “Broken Embraces” and “The Skin I Live In,” were heavy, dense, sometimes unpleasant works. If he’s chilling out, it’s on his terms.

It certainly seems fizzy. Set largely aboard a plane headed for Mexico, it’s, on the surface, a very modest hang-out movie. Most of the passengers, and all the stewardesses, have been drugged to sleep, but the rest — pilots and stewards, most either queeny or slightly in the closet, plus a few awake passengers — spend the film bantering, drinking mescaline-laced cocktails, swapping stories and worrying that the plane, which is experiencing technical difficulties, won’t be able to land.

And that’s it. Despite the revved-up title and exclamation point, “I’m So Excited!” is usually closer to being slightly agitated. A dance routine and a mild orgy aside, it’s a pleasant film, but deceptively so. Peer just underneath the placid surface and there’s more to it. Rather than a major new work, it’s a relaxed self-reflective piece, made by a longtime pro who’s getting up in years. Much of the cast is made of regulars, including head steward Javier Camara (“Talk to Her”) and moneyed passenger Cecilia Roth (“All About My Mother”). His most famous alumi, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, are introduced then swept off around minute three.

In interviews, Almodovar has reflected on how it’s his ode to the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the thrill of tyrannical dictator Francisco Franco’s death was still fresh, and when he was enjoying his first major success. There’s a melancholy to the film; it may be named after a Pointer Sisters song in America, but back home the title translates to a more sullen “The Fleeting Lovers” (no exclamation point). It’s a film that laments a bygone era of sudden freedom, now replaced by crumbling democracies and financial disasters. And it’s one that finds a major, out international filmmaker, who often has to hide homosexuality in his films, testing the waters with a new work that, while never explicit, is incredibly, unapologetically in-your-face queer.


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