Pedro Almodovar is, without a question, one of the great European film directors. A Product of Franco’s Spain, Almodovar began his career in the early 1970s as a pioneer of countercultural theatre and experimental cinema. Flamboyant in style but humane in sensitivity, his career is dominated by films that combine a campy visual aesthetic with a use of comedic and melodramatic registers to explore very basic questions about love and identity. Almodovar’s films always look considerably more ridiculous than they are because sometimes… life feels completely ridiculous, colourful, brash and stylised. Unfortunately, while I’m So Excited! is undoubtedly campy and undoubtedly makes use of comedy and melodrama to tell a story, Almodovar’s methods appear to have become detached from any discernable purpose other than amusing the director.
The film opens with Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz playing distracted airport ground crew. Neither funny nor particularly germane to the plot, this double cameo comes across as either a favour to an old cinematic comrade or an afternoon’s amusement for a group of old friends. Unfortunately, this lack of interest and effort bleeds outward into every aspect of the film.
The bulk of the plot concerns itself with a flight from Spain to Mexico which, following some technical difficulties, is stuck in a holding pattern whilst awaiting space to make an emergency landing. Having drugged the economy class passengers with muscle relaxants, the outrageously camp cabin crew turn to drink while the business class passengers put two-and-two together and realise that something is terribly wrong. When the business class passengers come to confront the pilot (Antonio de la Torre), the now half-cut head steward (Javier Camara) attempts to distract them by explaining at length who is sleeping with whom and why. One can only assume that this exchange loses quite a bit in translation as the only way in which this dialogue might be deemed funny is if one finds homosexuality and the idea of men sucking each other off inherently funny: Yes… the captain is bisexual. Yes… he is sleeping with the head steward. Yes… the co-pilot is straight but he questioned his sexuality by giving somebody a blowjob. What’s so funny about that?
Once the passengers become aware that there is a problem with the landing gear, the cabin crew decide to feed them mescaline and so the professional dominatrix (Cecilia Roth) and the virgin psychic (Lola Duenas) start opening up about their lives and getting really turned on as the secrets begin to pour out of them. Now pissed and high, the cabin crew perform a dance number to the Pointer Sisters’ song that gave the film its title.
I’m So Excited is beautifully designed and effortlessly directed but without any real ideas to explore or an appropriately funny script, the film drags terribly from one largely unfunny and unsubstantial set piece to the next. Even worse, Almodovar struggles to control the tone of his own film meaning that campy slapstick and raunchy dialogue unpredictably collapse into (admittedly well-realised) inserts about an actor getting back together with his ex-girlfriend when his current girlfriend is committed for attempting suicide. These wild changes of tone and focus not only rob the film of any sense of comedic momentum, they also draw attention to the weakness of the writing and the lack of care and attention that went into deciding what to keep and what to cut prior to release. Why bother including an insert about an actor’s love life when the results are neither funny nor related to anything else in the film? The most logical answer is that it amused the director to include it and that is the living definition of creative self-indulgence.
I’m So Excited! is a comedy that is neither dull nor particularly entertaining but the real crime is that it looks absolutely amazing. The film is full of beautiful little touches like a briefcase shrine, PVC-look uniforms and an artist’s studio splattered with paint drips and all of these little touches show that while Almodovar may have mislaid his desire to make serious films, his visual flair and attention to detail are still entirely present. Hot sticky messes like I’m So Excited! may not go so far as to tarnish the greatness of Almodovar’s earlier films (he’s no George Lucas) but complete disconnect between the film’s style and content leave you hoping that the master will someday rediscover his muse as a bored Almodovar is almost worse than no Almodovar at all.