One never knows what to expect from Pedro Almodóvar; no other director, save Hitchcock, has produced so many masterful twists and turns, both in his movie plots and career path. Almodóvar has developed more than just a collection of outrageous and unforgettable characters and situations; he has created his own very particular style of high-gloss, high-concept melodrama.
Since the international breakthrough hit, Law of Desire, in 1986, Almodóvar has produced an impressive number of certifiable masterpieces -- and reaped numerous international awards (Academy, NY Critics, Cannes) for his work. Throughout his career, he has moved consistently back and forth between melodrama (The Flower of My Secret) and camp (Dark Habits), with the two often colliding in the same film (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down). Recently, with films like 2001's Talk to Her, 2003's Bad Education and most especially 2011's The Skin I Live In, Almodóvar seemed to have graduated from camp to thriller, each film following a disturbing central mystery with dramatic, sometimes shockingly emotional pay-offs.
I'm So Excited! most closely resembles in both pacing and tone 1987's manic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. An homage to the disaster genre that thrived in the 1970s, I'm So Excited! feels like a handsome remake not of Airport, but of Airport 1975, a camp classic starring Karen Black and Charlton Heston and featuring cameos by Dana Andrews, Linda Blair, Myrna Loy and even Helen Reddy as a singing nun. I remember the MAD Magazine parody of Airport '75 more vividly than I do the film, which felt like it was itself conceived as a parody of the sleek, but slow moving 1970 original responsible for kick-starting the star-studded disaster movie cycle that included The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake. So, with this reference firmly in mind, buy your ticket and take the ride. Nobody orchestrates more deft -- or is it daft? -- comic hijinks than Almodóvar.
Originally headed to Mexico City from Madrid, Peninsula Flight 2549 is forced to fly in circles over Toledo awaiting clearance for an emergency landing. Meanwhile, as the aircraft's technical difficulties become apparent, tequila-fuelled mayhem ensues. Head flight attendant Joserra (the brilliant Javier Cámara) is constitutionally incapable of telling lies and keeping secrets -- and apparently staying sober. In short order he reveals both the flight's difficulties and his illicit affair with the captain (sexy and befuddled Antonio de la Torre). Other passengers include: psychic (and virgin) Bruna (Lola Dueñas), who sees blood -- and sex -- and death in her visions; a crooked banker (José Luis Torrijo), a soap-opera star (Guillermo Toledo), a paranoid dominatrix (Cecilia Roth), a newly married couple (the luscious Miguel Angel Silvestre and the tasty Laya Martí) and a mysterious businessman from Mexico City (José María Yazpik). These are the inhabitants of business class, the other passengers have been conveniently drugged and are sleeping through the crisis in coach.
Per genre convention, each character will have his or her star turn, revealing the dramas that they are trying to escape or that are awaiting them on the ground. The highlight comes when the soap opera star is able -- through a screwball coincidence only Almodóvar would attempt to get away with -- to have a phone conversation with not one but two women his infidelity has nearly driven crazy. The plot is predictable, but the pace starts out manic and then just goes from there. It's the loving zaniness that makes the film worthwhile, rendered with the delicious saturated color that has become Almodóvar's trademark.
Anyone who thinks the ticket price is too high is expecting too much. I'm So Excited! is a candy-coated confection whipped to a delicious froth -- empty calories just right for a hot summer day. Like the recent Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy cop movie, The Heat, I'm So Excited! doubles as both a great entry in its genre and a delicious send-up of genre tropes. The aim is over-the-top, which is confirmed at the film's mid-point when Peninsula Flight 2549's three gay (and I mean gay) flight attendants perform a zany musical number to The Pointer Sisters' 1982 song from which the film takes its English title. (Recommended)