The doomed air travelers of Almodóvar's manic sex farce I'm So Excited are locked in an upright position, all right 

The Mile Low Club

The Mile Low Club

"First class ... used to be a better meal, now it's a better life," Renee Zellweger famously said in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire. "Yeah, but the plane's still going down," could be the retort implied by Pedro Almodóvar's I'm So Excited, a seeming trifle that might actually be the director's strangest movie in years. On the surface, the film is a frivolously offbeat comedy set aboard an airplane headed for doom. All the poor schlubs in Economy Class have been given sleeping pills — not because the plane is going down, but because the drudgery of Economy Class is unbearable to begin with. In Business Class, a small cross-section of the Spanish elite (a businessman, a dominatrix, a soap star, a hitman, a yuppie couple, etc.) tries to gauge the situation and deal with their encroaching mortality, while a trio of flamboyantly gay cabin stewards keeps them plied with liquor, gossip, drugs and Pointer Sisters songs.

There are cameos (Almodóvar sneaks in the likes of Paz Vega, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz), there's a (wonderful) musical performance, along with tons of sex and many brief comic reveries; in some senses, it's less a movie and more a pageant. As such, it's hard to ever feel anything for these doomed characters. But that lack of involvement may well be intentional. When one character's call to the outside world leads to a weird, soap-opera-like string of events and revelations, the result seems more like a pastiche of character development than the real thing.

I'm So Excited often feels like a throwback to the surreal, bubbly comedies the director used to make before he became a master of ironic sentiment. However, it lacks the pitch-black edge of those earlier films — though full of sex, it will probably never provoke the kind of outrage that Dark Habits, Law of Desire, Matador or Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! did back in the day. But look closer and you'll sense a lot more going on beneath the film's candy-colored surfaces. References to Spain's crashing economy abound, and the airline is even called "Peninsula Airways" (presumably because "Iberia" is already taken, and "Spain" would be too heavy-handed). But the oddball tone and the obsession with sex and death suggest that there may be even more on Almodóvar's mind than just a plane full of privileged goofballs or an allegory of Spanish decline. For this director, a plane full of sex, gossip, music, love and betrayal headed for near-certain doom is an existential fact. In this world, we're all just waiting for the crash.




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