Thursday, January 9, 2014

Movie Review: I'm So Excited

I’m So Excited
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar.
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar.
Starring: Carlos Areces (Fajas), Javier Cámara (Joserra), Raúl Arévalo (Ulloa), Lola Dueñas (Bruna), Hugo Silva (Benito Morón), Antonio de la Torre (Álex Acero), José Luis Torrijo (Sr. Más), José María Yazpik (Infante), Cecilia Roth (Norma Boss), Penélope Cruz (Jessica), Antonio Banderas (León), Carmen Machi (Portera), Blanca Suárez (Ruth), Guillermo Toledo (Ricardo Galán), Paz Vega (Alba), Miguel Ángel Silvestre (Novio), Laya Martí (Novia).

After making three brilliant films in a row – All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002) and Bad Education (2004), Pedro Almodovar has pretty much been on a slow but decline. Volver (2006) wasn’t quite vintage Almodovar, but was close enough not to be considered a misfire. I like Broken Embraces (2009) more than most – mainly for its style (not sure I could give you a detailed plot synopsis of it right now if I tried – but images from the film still come readily to mind), and I disliked The Skin I Live In (2011) more than most – basically wishing Takahasi Miike should have made it instead – the style was there, but a wooden performance by Antonio Banderas and an unnecessary nastiness kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have liked. Now comes I’m So Excited – which is hopefully the bottom of this downward trend and will lead to a bounce back. The film is a colorful and energetic comedy – but that ultimately leads nowhere.

The film takes place on a flight from Spain to Mexico – except the plane never actually does leave Spain. After takeoff, the realize they won’t be able to deploy the landing gear properly, so the planes circles around and around in the sky of Spain, waiting for a runway to clear so they can do a controlled crash landing. To make everything easier, everyone in coach has been drugged out of their minds and are asleep. The few passengers in first class, their three gay stewards, and two bi-sexual pilots, basically spend the entire 90 minute running time drinking, doing drugs, having sex and telling each other their comedic life stories.

As many other reviewers have noted (how could they not?) the fact that the plane goes round and round in the air ultimately leading nowhere is a pretty apt way to describe the movie itself. The movie introduces us to its characters – a pair of newlyweds, a man who knows he’ll be arrested for his financial scams, an actor juggling multiple women, a man in a suit who looks like a Mexican hit man, perhaps because that’s what he is, a famous dominatrix, and a middle age physic/virgin, determined to lose her virginity soon (she picked the right flight). And then it throws the three campy, over-the-top gay stereotype stewards into the mix, who drink, gossip and dance around to the title song. Then it throws in the pilots, who don’t have much to do. Then it throws in a few cutaways to the actors girlfriends outside the plane. I kept watching the movie expecting it to go somewhere – to eventually cohere into some sort of larger purpose, and time and time, the movie leads you to nowhere.

You really cannot blame the cast – they throw themselves into their roles in every conceivable way imaginable through the course of the movie. Whatever Almodovar was hoping for from his cast, they certainly deliver what he wanted. But it seems to me that Almodovar doesn’t have a larger purpose in mind – the movie is meant to be nothing more than what it is – a lark. Some have suggested that the film is a metaphor of Spain and their economic crisis – circling round and round, with no one seemingly all that concerned – but that’s pushing it a bit.

Far be it for me to tell Almodovar he cannot decide to do something light hearted and undemanding – especially after he wallowed in darkness in The Skin I Live In. We have seen cases in the past where directors take on something lighter and fun to recharge their batteries – Scorsese says that’s why he did After Hours (1985), after the misery of shooting The King of Comedy (1983) and having The Last Temptation of Christ fall part on him the first time. But After Hours was a brilliant movie – a surreal, comedic masterwork. I’m So Excited on the other hand feels tossed off – a film that Almodovar didn’t really think through, but decided to go ahead and make it anyway. Because he is as talented as he is, the film is still watchable – it has isolated moments where vintage Almodovar comes out – but mainly it goes nowhere, and adds up to nothing.

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