Internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s last film ‘The Skin I Live In’ was a visually stunning, deliciously twisted, and sublimely perverse shocker featuring the return of Antonio Banderas into Almodovar territory with an amazing performance. If that film was the filet mignon of Almodovar films then his latest film ‘I’m So Excited!’ (Los amantes pasajeros) is like eating a week old stale doughnut for dessert. Set in the first-class cabin of an airplane, this dud flies aimlessly while we, the passengers, get a generous helping of adolescent humor in a plotline thinner than the air at high altitude.
‘I’m So Excited!’ is the story of an airline doomed for crash landing and the lengths to which the cabin crew go to keep the passengers distracted and calm. Everyone in economy class has been sedated into slumber and there lies the first big hole in the plot. Why aren’t all passengers on the flight put to sleep? Then we would have been spared this nonsensical plot from ever unfolding. Yes, it’s a metaphor for how the rich fly high while the working classes are subjugated into complacency but then the storyline does nothing with this political stance. Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, and Raúl Arévalo play the swishy, gay flight attendants serving six passengers in the first-class cabin who, for reasons known only to Almodovar, are not only kept conscious but allowed breezy access into the cockpit while being fully informed of the flight’s fate. Over the next 90 minutes we get glimpses of each passenger’s life as each one sets out to fulfill one last wish in the event of a worst possible outcome for the flight.
About 30 minutes in, the film takes a bizarre detour when the action shifts to earth and we get side-tracked into the story of a jilted wife on the verge of her own crash landing as she tries to jump off a bridge. Detours are an Almodovar staple. The miniature man entering a giant vagina in his 2002 film ‘Talk To Her’ may be the most memorable. But this detour, like the flight and the film itself, is rudderless and goes nowhere.
Air travel ranks high in the list of life’s most stressful and aggravating experiences. At one point or another during our travels, we have felt horny at the most inappropriate time, succumbed to fantasies about sex with flight attendants or other passengers, or wished we were sufficiently drugged to withstand the trauma. Maybe Almodovar is simply committing to celluloid, in vivid color, what we have all felt to a greater or lesser degree. Still, as the plane skids to a halt in the end, the film leaves us wishing we had been bumped off this flight or taken the train and found ourselves in a Hitchcock suspense instead. Or blissfully sleeping, like the passengers in economy class.