Director: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Cámara, Pepa Charro, Lola Dueñas, Antonio de la Torre, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo
Written by: Pedro Almodovar
Running Time: 90 mins
Release date: 3rd May 2013
Pedro Almodovar is one of Spain’s most famous sons; a film maker who has been at the top of his game since shaking the foundations of Spanish cinema with the controversial Pepi, Luci, Bom in 1980. Since then he has become highly regarded in the cinematic arena and is a true auteur, often spoken of in the same breath as Scorsese, Spielberg, Hitchcock to name a few. His films often cross the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable in modern life and he never hides away from shaking up a few feathers. recently, his films have had a dark, sinister edge so now he is back to kitsch form with a gloriously camp comedy set on board a plane, stereotypes and all.
A flight to Mexico is hit with a big problem. The landing gear is stuck and so the only solution is for the crew to circle until they can find an empty runaway to make an emergency landing. With the customers in Economy all unconscious (due to taking “muscle relaxants”) the handful of passengers in First Class are being attended to by Joserra, the Chief Steward who cannot tell a lie and who is having a secret affair with married Captain Alex, who refuses to break the news to his wife that he is homosexual; Fajas, a hugely religious man who cannot allow himself even a fling, no matter how tempting, and Ulloa, completely single and free to have any man he likes. The three are determined to have as much fun while waiting for their possible doom, while the mix assortment of passengers start to share their stories and past misdemeanors.
This is Almodovar having fun. Reminiscent of the film that made the world notice him, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, this is a colourful romp that very rarely raises about low brow for its humours and leaves virtually nothing to the imagination. The three Stewards, dressed in very tight blue shirts, are mixing up the bitchy remarks while making champagne cocktails and wanting to perform cabaret songs for the passengers entertainment. It’s all very stereotypical and yet, in Almodovar’s hands, it’s perfectly fine. Coming off the back of the devilishly brilliant psychological thriller, The Skin I Live In, it’s nice to see the director throwing caution to the wind.
Fans of the director will lap up the campness of the whole affair that comes across, in places, that a bawdy version of a Carry On film, without the subtle nudge, nudge humour. To be honest, there is nothing subtle here. Sex plays an important part in this, done completely for laughs and managing to get them too. Those new to Almodovar could be bewildered and even shocked, if of a prudish nature, that a man so highly revered in the film world would produce such obvious pot shots of humour but we do tend to forget that this is where he really started from.
The performances are all fine. Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz make very brief appearances at the beginning (they cause the plane’s problem in the first place) and Carlos Areces as Fajas, looking like a young Zero Mostel, gets some of the bigger laughs, having to deal with a floppy comb-over while constantly having to prey. The film’s highpoint is an exuberant cabaret style routine to the Pointer Sisters I’m So Excited (hence the title) that had me laughing out loud.
This is not Almodovar’s best film by a long shot. It is massively flawed. The satire of the current financial problems that Spain are incurring doesn’t work and is far too quickly washed over. There’s a middle section where the action leaves the plane to concentrate on one of the passenger’s women troubles that seems out of place and could be an entirely different movie altogether and some of the humour is so low brow it verges on being infantile. Having said that, it’s the most fun I have had in an Almodovar film for some time and I found myself laughing at most of the inappropriate sections.
Critics have not been too positive about the film and it might not be up there with his best works but I laughed, quite hard in places and in this current climate, that’s enough for me to say I had good raucous, rowdy fun.