Twenty minutes into Pedro Almodovar’s new comedy, I’m So Excited, moviegoers realize that the work is a mise en abyme, in which the inner frame of the story is an exact replica of the outer frame. In the outer frame, Leon, a Peninsula Airline Operator, discovers that his wife Jessica, also a Peninsula Airline worker, has been hiding her newly discovered pregnancy. Before the discovery, Leon (played by Antonio Banderas) sees his wife (Penelope Cruz) in the face of danger, and his immediate reaction later creates a catastrophic situation abroad the plane, he is prepping for take-off, which is leaving from Spain and heading toward Mexico.
“During the 80s, I made a lot of comedies,” Almodovar said in a sit-down interview. “So this was like returning to my roots. I think I just needed to make something lighter. It’s a light, very light comedy.”
The film is a definite departure from his more recent dramatic and critically acclaimed films, Volver, Bad Education, and Talk to Her.
In the inner frame of the story, the splendid hilarity that takes place onboard Peninsula Flight 2549, is amplified through personal phone conversations to loved ones on the ground. In a comedic twist, everyone on the flight, who has not been drugged into a state of twilight sleep, can hear the conversations. Also the spoken dialogue between major characters is condensed, eliminating unneeded details and creating a fast-moving pace.
The major characters in this comedy include: the senior flight attendant who cannot tell a lie, Joserra (played by Javier Cámara); the happily married pilot leading a double life with another man, Alex Acero (played by Antonio De La Torre); a hated and highly-frequented dominatrix, Norma (played by Cecilia Roth); an aging Don Juan-esque actor, Ricardo (played by Guillermo Toledo); and a virgin and delightfully amusing psychic, Bruna (played by Lola Dueñas).
Leon’s actions from the start of the movie forces the flight crew to drug the unknowing passengers flying in economy class, along with the flight attendants serving them, in order not to create mass hysteria. On a previous flight, pandemonium broke out and a death occurred; the crew promised to prevent a repeat situation. They believe drugging most of the plane will prevent another death. Three business class passengers, Norma, Senior Más, and Infante, become enraged with the flight crew when their questions about technical difficulties are not answered. The passengers barge into the frenzied cockpit with pilots Alex and Benito and the senior flight attendant. Joserra, who has promised Alex not to drink on the flight, tries to calm the passengers down. However Norma starts to believe that the plane’s technical difficulties are a cover-up to assassinate her due to a lie that she has perpetuated. She is not the only person onboard who is not telling the truth about themselves.
Even though the captain is happily married with children, Alex is having a very public affair with Joserra. The entire flight crew not only accepts their relationship, but they also support it. Benito, the co-pilot, is unhappily married and his wife is afraid that he is going to leave her for another man. Benito does not define himself as a gay man, however, he has had sex with another man. Ruth, who is not on the plane, is having an affair with Ricardo, who is married to a suicidal artist. Senior Más’ daughter ran away from home and is believed to be an escort. Sex is definitely an underlying current beneath each character’s storyline.
Moreover, for this project, Almodovar, who is out and proud, said he channeled another out director, John Waters, the famous writer of Hairspray (1988) and director of Serial Mom. “He is one of my best American friends,” Almodovar said. With Waters’ approach to satire and gender/sexuality nonconformity, Almodovar created his “gayest film ever” and described it as “dirty” because the passengers “do everything that is forbidden to do on a plane.” In the movie sex and sexuality is fluid and do not define the characters, but happen to the characters.
In reference to the title, the director explained that, “in Spain, being excited means being horny. In the second part of the movie, this is the state of the passengers.” The movie’s title is taken from the Pointer Sisters’ disco-pop classic of the same title. Also taking place in the second part of the movie, the male flight attendants, Joserra, the sex-starved Ulloa, and the hair-flipping hilarious Fajas, break out into a drug-enhanced, glittery, dance performance, choreographed to the still popular song.
While the movie’s goal is to be over-the-top-flamboyant for laughs, Almodovar said it is also a “metaphor for Spain that has been hit by a two-year recession” and “has left about a quarter of its workforce jobless.” I’m So Excited reflects Spain’s “political corruption and financial embezzlement” and “banking crisis that required a European Union bailout last year.”
“What is metaphorical in the movie is that journey, which consists in turning around in circles, without knowing where they are going to land. The plane needs (to make) an emergency landing, but don’t know exactly who will be commanding it.”
Almodovar’s I’m So Excited is complex, subtitled, and sexual; the combination makes for a great summer date movie.