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I’m So Excited!

Posted by martinteller on March 6, 2014

Peninsula Airlines flight 2549 from Madrid to Mexico has a problem.  Due to the negligence of the distracted ground crew (cameos by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz), one of the landing gear struts is jammed.  Now the plane is circling over Spain, waiting for a clear runway to attempt a dangerous landing.  Fortunately, the economy class passengers and flight attendants have been drugged and are in no position to raise a fuss.  Now it’s up to three flamboyantly gay stewards to keep business class distracted.  Fajas (Carlos Areces) is devoutly religious.  Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) is a bit slutty.  And Chief Steward Joserra (Javier Cámara) is psychologically incapable of telling a lie.  Joserra is carrying on an affair with the married pilot Alex (Antonio de la Torre).  Co-pilot Benito (Hugo Silva) is also married, and straight, though that didn’t stop him from experimenting… also with Alex.  And then there’s the motley crew of passengers.  A newlywed couple (Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Laya Martí) is sleeping, though one of the stewards swears the handsome groom keeps winking at him.  A psychic named Bruna (Lola Dueñas) is anxious to lose her virginity.  Mister Más (José Luis Torrijo) is a banker connected to recent financial upheaval, and he’s estranged from his daughter.  Norma (Cecilia Roth) is a dominatrix and madam who claims to have compromising videos of the 600 most powerful men in Spain.  Infante (José María Yazpik) is a “security advisor” with a secret mission.  Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo) is an actor who tries to reach his suicidal ex-girlfriend Alba (Paz Vega) on the airplane’s phone but through a strange twist of fate ends up talking to another ex, Ruth (Blanca Suarez).  With a lot of Valencia cocktails — and maybe a little bit of mescaline — this group might get through this ordeal.

Pedro Almodovar’s previous film, The Skin I Live In, was one of his best, a layered and twisty horror/thriller/mystery that was dark and dense and rich with meaning.  Perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised that he would want to let his hair down for his next movie.  This is a silly, campy romp with a number of Almodovar’s trademark wild coincidences… and a lot of raunchy humor.  Unfortunately, little of it connects.  The most entertaining part is — as one might guess from the trailer — the charmingly goofy pantomime of the title song by The Pointer Sisters.  It’s endearing camp that embraces homosexual stereotypes in a loving fashion.  What a shame that most of the other would-be humorous parts are so obvious, and even tacky.  We know Almodovar can do both tasteless and funny simultaneously, so what went wrong here?  Why do the gags feel so cheap?  There’s no finesse to them.  They’re not all bad, but so few of them are good.

The multitude of plotlines aren’t woven together with much finesse, either.  We hop from one to another, setting up each in turn for the resolution we know will come in the last few minutes.  A very lengthy diversion (just about the only time outside the confines of the plane) for Ricardo’s story feels very significant… until suddenly it isn’t.  We won’t really hear about it again until the end.  The rest of them are really just sketches of scenarios, none of them particularly interesting or amusing.  The performances are all good (I especially liked Dueñas) but they’re wasted on uninspired material.

The best parts of the movie involve the chemistry and banter between Joserra, Fajas and Ulloa.  If the film wasn’t so concerned about the passengers and had just let those three do their fabulous thing, it really could have been much better.  I’d probably love watching that movie.  Instead it’s the worst I’ve seen by Almodovar yet.  The stylization is gorgeous as always, popping with primary colors.  Too bad the script has so little of that pop to it.  If you want to see Almodovar do madcap farce properly, check out the brilliant Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  Give this one a pass.  Rating: Poor (55)


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