I’m So Excited, the latest film from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar, never particularly lives up to its title. Despite a campy promise that looks on a surface view as a filmmaker getting in touch with his roots, it’s instead a cynical and mean-spirited mess of a movie that shows Almodovar regressing to infantilism if anything else.
On an ill-fated flight trying to make its way to Mexico City, a trio of flamboyantly gay flight attendants, the bisexual pilot, and the straight (but really bi-curious) co-pilot try to maintain order and not let anyone know that they are circling aimlessly around Spain searching for a runway to make a rough landing on due to a mishap involving the landing gear. The people and attendants in economy class have all been knocked out with muscle relaxants and the only people left awake are the high rollers in first class, including an aging dominatrix fashion plate (and all around complainer), a virginal psychic, a cheating actor skipping out on a potentially suicidal lover, an international man of mystery/security expert, and an investment banker looking at hard time for some terrible decisions. The situation forces the passengers to look at their lives in different ways, but it’s still up to the crew to keep them all from potentially going crazy and killing each other out of stress.
There’s a certain amount of getting back to basics at work in Almodovar’s latest in terms of style, but it’s all for show and the director’s own personal amusement. His central thesis is summed up quite eloquently in a single line of dialogue about how musicals killed traditional cabaret. “Remember when going to the movies used to be fun and silly?” is what he seems to be driving at with his bright, almost neon pastels, out of left field musical numbers, raunchy and sexually explicit dialogue, and lengthy plot points about characters getting drunk or tripping out on mescaline smuggled in a newlywed hubby’s butthole mixed with champagne.
There’s certainly a chance for high camp to ensue and it’s the least serious film Almodovar has churned out in the past decade, but it’s also an incredibly mean and petty exercise to sit through. None of these characters are allowed to breathe, speaking only the words of an angry director who acts like someone told him he wasn’t allowed to make the fun and funny films of his youth anymore. It’s cynicism in the extreme, and he treats every member of his cast with the utmost contempt for what they’re doing.
If the character is gay, he’s chastised for not being gay enough. If a character is straight, they need to admit that they are either gay or need to get laid. If a character is woman, she’s a shrill caricature unworthy of love or trust. All straight men are secret keeping jerks who push their friends and family away to dangerous degrees (the suicidal lover subplot on the ground is particularly offensive and irksome). Basically, the world is shit because we have lost the joy in our lives.
But Almodovar is so angry that he can’t even properly express the joy that he wants everyone to feel. It’s like a thick candy shell of sugary candy housing rat poison inside, and yet, it’s impossible to divorce one sentiment from the other because Almodovar wants it both ways. It’s a film only made by someone who wants to feel good about themselves and wants to castigate the world around them for not being exactly like he is. There’s good reason why the North American version of the film takes the name of the Pointer Sisters track the attendants sing just past the midway point. It’s a trick and a con into making people think they’re actually going to a cabaret, when really they’re on a slow boat to nowhere exciting or even all that funny. This movie is a mess.