Anything but an Upright Position: Pedro Almodóvar’s I’M SO EXCITED!
By guest blogger Eduardo Féteira.
Set almost entirely on board an intercontinental flight to Mexico City, I’M SO EXCITED! returns us to an ’80s-imbued Almodóvar, and finds the auteur dusting off his funny bone and twirling along to a disco groove while raising a glass to crisis-stricken Spain. Fans hoping for another gripping thriller like THE SKIN I LIVE IN will be surprised to see Almodóvar setting aside the darker tone of his most recent films for something a little breezier. I’M SO EXCITED! is Almodóvar’s return to farce as only he knows how to do it – a response to his comedy-craving Madrileños, and to the economic and social unrest of his country.
A self-proclaimed almost-nostalgia movie with memories of a happier Spain, I’M SO EXCITED! finds its cast high on mescaline and stranded among the clouds following a malfunction of the plane’s landing gear. As it circles aimlessly through the skies waiting for a safe crash-landing spot, a sense of impending danger and unrest sets in. Almodóvar forces us aboard the plummeting flight that is the Spanish economic nightmare, dropping some less-than-subtle hints and eliciting grins of recognition from audience: the airline is named Peninsula; the Economy passengers are drugged into an almost comatose state while the Executive Class party on; there is constant media coverage of a money-laundering case; and the ironic crash site is Ciudad Real, the infamous ghost airport at the epicentre of one of Spain’s biggest construction scandals. However, rather than issue a call to arms, the director uses humour and hedonism to define his own notion of Spanish identity – a capable people whose lust for life is always greater than their problems.
Almodóvar continues to riff on his earlier comic and overstatedly theatrical tropes, subverting ideas of masculinity, gender roles and patriarchal authority. The three air stewards, played brilliantly by Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces and Raúl Arévalo, are the ultra-camp exorcism of the male ideal, corrupting the more conservative notions of family, machismo and control, as with the director’s early feature PEPI, LUCY, BOM AND OTHER GIRLS LIKE MOM. Taking charge of entertaining and ‘calming’ the passengers, the men come up with up with hilarious schemes to keep everything kind of in line, while accumulating points as mile-high members with married men.
I’M SO EXCITED! is classic Almodóvar, with its complex emotional storyline, dynamic dialogue and deep understanding of human relationships. Trapping his characters in a cage of their own fears and emotions, the director argues for change through an endorphin-induced catharsis channelled through his favourite weapons of choice. “During the flight there are three things that save each character: words, sex and alcohol,” Almodóvar declares. As we watch a sexually frustrated psychic, a sex industry mogul and a runaway businessman, among others, come to terms with their mortality, shed their notions of hierarchy and reveal their secrets, we too cross the clouds, confiding and bonding with each passenger, transforming ourselves as we leave our seats.
Eduardo Féteira is a freelance journalist and editorial assistant at Little Joe magazine. eduardofeteirapholio.wordpress.com
Little Joe is a magazine about queers and cinema, mostly.