Jul 7, 2013

I'm So Excited!


This film is not as great as Pedro Almodóvar's most radical comedies, but it is a fun return to his uninhibited puckish self after some of his more serious, and in my view, unnecessarily pretentious, recent outings.
I'm So Excited! bears Almodóvar's classic looseness and epater l'espagnol signature. He is Spain's most gifted fool (in the Shakespearean sense of the word), making happy mincemeat out of everything that is provincial, strait-laced and hypocritical in Spanish society, this time lashing out at Spain's latest shameful financial scandals, as well.
It's an uneven, raunchy, dirty romp, rough around the edges, but it is buoyantly entertaining, often very funny, and in some sequences, absolutely gorgeous, thanks to the work of master of color, cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, and Almodóvar's production design team. The vibrant color scheme is an inch from the garish, but it never plunges into vulgarity. For a movie that resembles a ramshackle skit comedy, it looks fabulous.
For years, Almodóvar explored the theme of the fluidity of human sexual desire, and expressed his own gay sensibility by telling stories of beleaguered women, but this time it's all flamboyantly, openly gay. So instead of his fabulous women like Carmen Maura and Rossy De Palma, we are treated to three male stewards, all raging queens, led by the great Javier Cámara, who in their loves and lusts are reminiscent of those broads. A big part of what makes Almodóvar's films hilarious is the way his characters speak. He has a prodigious ear for the chatty patois of his countrymen and the kind of obvious, inane, opinionated things his characters say are always a hoot. Although the subtitles in English are for the most part pretty accurate, everything is so much funnier in his brand of Spanish.
I'm So Excited! is a little fable about a society (Spain's, the world's) that hypocritically objects to the pursuit of pleasure and sexual freedoms, while engaging in much more destructive practices. This is embodied by a plane flying from Madrid to Mexico City, with a sparsely populated business class, and a packed like sardines economy class, somehow cheerfully going down in flames. It's a disaster movie a la Almodóvar, which is far more spirited and fun than the humorless, neanderthal-like mayhem produced by Hollywood with gazillions of dollars.
The three stewards are in charge of keeping spirits up in business, and people zonked out in the main cabin. The pilots are family men who like gays on the side; the only passengers awake are the handful that travel on business, and from whom we hear convoluted stories. Their lives may be coming to an end, an opportunity for the filmmaker to unfurl his sense of humor and engage once more in his undying love for campy melodrama (which is where he loses me. I much prefer his impish side).
As playful and loose as he is, Almodóvar is no hack. Some sequences are exquisitely made, and almost breathtaking. The musical number that gives the film its title in English is a spectacularly staged mini-production, a modest extravaganza of craft with three men dancing in the aisles of a plane. And there is a stunning sequence where the director eschews the graphic scenes of impact by cutting to an empty airport, lying in wait, bracing for disaster, without showing an ounce of debris or a drop of blood. Despite Hollywood's efforts to the contrary, he trusts that we can still rely on our imaginations, and it is a contrary kind of showstopper. He even builds a surreptitious suspense and has the gall to stage a plane evacuation as a giddy, dreamlike ending, all afloat in extinguisher foam.

2 comments:

  1. Michael Parker-StainbackJuly 7, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Oh, Mam, you really are an admirably perspicacious critic. Saw Los amantes pasajeros here in DF, and enjoyed it like so much candy; but your reading finds virtues I might never have seen, discounting the picture as entertaining fluff. Sometimes I get tired of Almodóvar hagiography (it seems like a reflex among some in our set) but I also believe his films evince a worthy complexity that's easy to lose sight of amid all the color, bawdiness and entertainment.

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  2. Gee, thanks Mr. Parker! Sure, it's the same old shtick, but I found it refreshingly brazen after his cerebral, pretentious exercises in genre, like La Piel Que Habito. And I adore Javier Cámara.

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