I’m So Excited! (Los Amantes Pasajeros): Film Review

I'm So Excited Trailer - H 2013

I'm So Excited Trailer - H 2013

Almodovar’s campy in-flight comedy takes off and certainly gets off, but is otherwise a rocky ride. 

Pedro Almodovar's raunchy airborne comedy, which the director has opted to release ahead of Cannes, features cameos by Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Paz Vega.

LONDON -- Giving a whole new meaning to the word "cockpit," Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited! (Los amantes pasajeros) is a raunchy and rowdy throwback to the director’s kinkier efforts from the late '80s/early '90s (Law of Desire, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) -- although it also makes for a rather bumpy flight, literally hovering in circles before descending to lots of outre gags and candy-colored copulation. Opening in most territories without making the usual stopover in Cannes, the film will play best with local crowds and dedicated fans of the veteran Spanish auteur, as well as with LBGT audiences looking for a one-way ticket of binge-drinking, pill-popping and other such things one shouldn’t do with their seatbelt fastened.

Among those: Downing cocktails of tequila and mescaline while steering an international airliner, performing fellatio on a passenger doped up on muscle relaxants -- or getting a narcoleptic fiancee to do the same, all the while force-feeding her what looks like an entire bag of barbiturates. Or else -- ¿pour que no? – going down on the co-pilot (who's referred to as a “natural born f--”) while he tries to save the aircraft from imminent doom.

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Indeed, these and other over-the-top moments might make this one a tough sell for Sony Pictures Classics when it releases stateside in late June, as this is a far cry from such stirring, modern-day melodramas as Volver, Talk to Her and All About My Mother, which together grossed over $30 million in the U.S. And although Almodovar alumni Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz make a brief and cute cameo early on in this one (appearing for the first time together in one of his movies), this effort feels more like a gleefully dirty sitcom that's primarily destined for Spanish-speaking and European audiences.

With its English-language title taken from the Pointer Sisters song -- which gets lip-synched in a kitschy mid-movie interlude -- but with an added exclamation point (per the print viewed), the film, both plot-wise and joke-wise, immediately recalls another bluntly titled jetliner comedy: the Zucker Brothers­ and Jim Abrahams’ 1980 disaster flick spoof, Airplane! Only that this version feels like it was remixed by John Waters on one of his more debauched days, going so far as to feature a brief scene of semen tasting between two of the aircraft's sexed-up stewards.

Like Airplane!, the story here couldn’t be simpler: While on board a flight bound for Mexico City, several crew members and first class passengers try to cope with the fact that the landing gear has failed and that they might all wind up plummeting to their deaths. Forced to come to terms with their dark secrets and oversized libidos as the plane circles above Spain, the characters begin to band together in all kinds of ways as they prepare for a nasty crash landing.

On the crew side there’s the trio of uber-gay flight attendants (Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces), the aforementioned co-pilot (Hugo Silva) and his straight-faced captain (Antonio de la Torre), whose sexual orientation is constantly brought into question (at one point he’s referred to as an “experimental c---sucker”). And on the passenger side there’s the clairvoyant virgin (Lola Duenas), the drug-smuggling groom (Miguel Angel Silvestre), the sharp-tongued madame (Cecilia Roth) and the mysterious dude in the dark suit (Jose Maria Yazpik), who tries to read Roberto Bolano’s 2666 when he’s not hiding his own sordid motives.

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Although these are all flamboyant, rather fun-filled caricatures, they’re also hard to invest in as actual people, and at most can be enjoyed for the lively performances offered up by several of Almodovar’s regular cast members who clearly are having a blast as they sing and dance and thrust their way to oblivion.

While the first and third acts are devoted to the various in-flight shenanigans, the film bizarrely takes a detour in the second act to follow the uninspired tale of an onboard actor (Guillermo Toledo) and the two lovers (Paz Vega, Blanca Suarez) he left brokenhearted on the ground. Why things needed to swing in this direction is anyone’s guess (giving Vega some screen time is a good one) and the momentary subplot only detracts from a narrative that’s already short on substance.

But Almodovar is obviously less concerned with dishing out one of his well-spun, heart-shattering stories than with taking things as wickedly far as possible, which he certainly does in a finale that brings everyone together in a crescendo of airborne bumping and grinding. This ultimately makes for a work that's less about building emotional ecstasy than about piling on the guilty pleasures, of which there are countless examples, even if such pleasures -- to borrow from the film's original title -- are mostly passing ones.

Working with a color palette that resembles a Christian Lacroix fever dream (or wet dream), trusty cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine captures the action in lengthy medium shots that allow the performances to play out in the manner of a live television sketch. Along with the titular song, the soundtrack mixes Alberto Iglesias’s score with a handful of upbeat tracks, including a catchy closing number from the U.K. electro ensemble Metronomy.

Production companies: El Deseo S.A.

Cast: Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Cecilia Roth, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva Paz Vega, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas

Director, screenwriter: Pedro Almodovar

Producers: Agustin Almodovar, Ester Garcia

Director of photography: Jose Luis Alcaine

Production designer: Antxon Gomez

Costume designer: Tatiana Hernandez

Music: Alberto Iglesias

Chreographer: Blanca Li

Editor: Jose Salcedo

Sales: FilmNation Entertainment

Not yet rated, 90 minutes