In “I’m So Excited,” writer and director Pedro Almodovar delivers a farcical, sometimes uncomfortable, character-focused romp. The plot is fairly simple – a flight on its way to Mexico City must continue to stay in the air when its landing gear gets stuck – which places the majority of the movie’s focus on its characters – their sordid personal lives and polarizing personalities.
After the first class cabin’s three flight attendants – the effeminate and newly religious Fajas (Carlos Areces, “Talk To Her”), the free-spirited Ulloa (Raul Arevalo), and the honest-to-a-fault Joserra (Javier Camara) – have lightly drugged the passengers and attendants in coach, they are free to do as they wish.
More often than not what they wish to do is disrupt the plane’s captains, entering into the cockpit for some bits of business that result in curious revelations about the seemingly hetero and married captains. Almodovar’s script is heavy on wordplay, but it doesn’t solely rely on innuendo; he wants to show you as well as tell you.
If it seems that the plane’s captains have their secrets, so too, do the first class passengers. There’s the potentially-psychic Bruna (Lola Duenas), hoping to lose her virginity; the notorious madam, Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth), whose fame might not be as great as her ego; and the white collar criminal Sr. Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo), who might not only be guilty of financial crimes. While the fate of the plane literally hangs in the air, we see what these characters are really made of.
It’s this concept – placing characters in situations where they are being held captive by something or someone (often Antonio Banderas) to see what they’re really about – that seems to have fascinated Almodovar through multiple films. It’s a main component in Almodovar’s previous effort, “The Skin I Live In,” but it can be felt too in “Talk To Her,” where a nurse (again, Carlos Areces) acts as a sort of captor to a woman in a coma, and in “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” where a madman takes an actress hostage. It’s as if Almodovar sees himself as a scientist, placing characters in a constrained petri dish, only lightly applying agitation, and waiting to see how the characters will react and change with time.
“I’m So Excited” manages to feel lightweight despite the heaviness that probably ultimately lies at the heart of these characters’ stories. Almodovar seems to be commenting on the fronts that people put up, the facades that mask their true natures – but he does so with his own brand of camp and peculiar sexual preoccupations. “I’m So Excited” is not nearly as arresting as “Broken Embraces” or “Volver,” but it’s lighter and campier.
The most disappointing moment in “I’m So Excited” may come at the very beginning of the movie, as we’re introduced to characters played by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. Almodovar lures us in with these famous faces, and begins to build a compelling story around them, and just when we’re most curious he moves us on to the main story and forgets them. He arouses us and then doesn’t let us see things through to the finish. It might be a playful tease, but alas, it’s only a tease. Perhaps it’s an experiment he’s saving for later.