Review: I’m So Excited!
There seem to be two Pedro Almodóvars at work. One is the recent arthouse darling who makes serious, dark, somewhat twisted, oddly whimsical, deeply emotional soap opera-like feminist dramas that examine vanity, sexuality, family, trauma, and sometimes pedophilia, all within an unexpectedly accessible carnival-like atmosphere. Essentially, all the films he's made since 1999's All About My Mother (including greats like Talk to Her and Bad Education). This is Almodóvar the auteur, for lack of a better term. The other Almodóvar is the one that many of his fans initially fell in love with back in the 1980s, and who was better known for outrageous and colorful farces that were just as earnest in their intent and wonderfully bent in their frank sexuality. This is the Almodóvar who brought us films like Dark Habits, Matador, and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! The ones with masturbation scenes, randy nuns, and brutal/playful views of bondage. Almodóvar has a taste for broad farce which he hasn't tapped into for many year.
I'm So Excited! is most certainly Almodóvar working in full-blown farce mode, spraying his film with a raunchy naughtiness unseen since the 1990s. His newest film (of a much smaller budget and scale than his last few projects) is a tiny little funhouse of camp and vice, complete with drug consumption, merry over-drinking, multiple affairs, multiple sexualities, and an orgy-like scene wherein three couples have sex in full view of one another simultaneously. The ultimate result is a kind of hit-and-miss, vacillating as it does between sternly serious drama and wonderfully reckless abandon, but it must be a relief for the director to return to such an open brand of comedy that he began with. Kind of like when John Waters returned to NC-17 material with 2004's underrated A Dirty Shame. I'm So Excited! is pretty funny and most certainly naughty, and it will please the longtime fans of the director who like his early material. There is a jaunty jollity at play here to be sure. But for people who grew up on post 1999 Almodóvar, I'm So Excited! will feel oddly slight. Like Almodóvar was just messing around, and needed to get this little trifle out of his system before he could get back to his headier dramas.
Taking place largely in the first class compartment of a doomed passenger jet (the plane is merely circling, looking for a runway, slowly running out of fuel), a retinue of colorful characters – complete with a shadowy criminal, an ex-porn-star-turned-government-madame, a virginal psychic who is determined to lose her virginity on that plane, an aging Lothario with multiple mistresses, and a trio of gay flight attendants – begin drinking heavily and taking drugs and confessing their deepest secrets in a fit of doomsday camaraderie. Bisexual affairs come to light, secret professions are revealed, and yes, sex is had. The film sort of climaxes with a scene of the three gay flight attendants enacting an enthusiastically choreographed rendition of The Pointer Sisters' title tune. Evidently, they have a whole catalogue of songs that they have at the ready for just such occasions. Whatever this airline is, I want to fly on it. The stories dip and weaves so recklessly that I'm So Excited! manages to achieve that rare quality in movies: a sense of the unexpected. You never know what's going to happen. It's all so spirited, you can't help but smile and occasionally laugh at the cartoon telenovela-gone-mad particulars.
But I can't really tell what Almodóvar is driving at with this one. Are the first-class passengers intended to stand as a microcosm of Spain's moneyed elite? Are the intertwining sexual dynamics intended to imply a new political openness in Spain? There is a comedic scene wherein a woman essentially rapes an unsuspecting stranger, but it's all played for laughs and even for emotional catharsis? Is there supposed to be a note of irony? I felt like I might have been missing some sort of social or political underpinning that I would only have picked up on had I been born a citizen of Spain. Perhaps I'm just not sophisticated enough of a film critic to know. Or maybe I'm just not on the right wavelength.
Or maybe I'm So Excited! is supposed to be mere joyous abandon. A tossing off of the frock, and a sprint through fields of naked bodies, Valencia cocktails, and public sexual activity. While I was a little put off by the lightness of the material, I have to congratulate the film for making that rarest of birds: A sex comedy for grown-ups.
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and co-star of The Trailer Hitch. You can read his weekly articles B-Movies Extended, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind. If you want to buy him a gift (and I know you do), you can visit his Amazon Wish List.