Writer-director Pedro Almodóvar returns to broad comedy with I'm So Excited, a wacky, candy-colored allegory for modern life. Unfortunately, a plot about a plane that has trouble making a landing could just as well be a metaphor for the movie itself.
With its 1960s color scheme and cheeky comic sensibility, I'm So Excited takes off promisingly before literally and figuratively flying in circles. With its suspiciously phallic name, Peninsula Air is just the outfit for a story that sets out to prove its own internal observation: "Give 'em sex and booze and they'll be happy." A brief prologue on an airport tarmac amusingly allows Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz to be responsible for screwing up the plane's landing gear and trapping passengers, pilots, and flight crew in a Sartrean limbo.
Almodóvar very deliberately marginalizes the coach passengers as drugged sheep, opting to spend most of the film in the only superficially classy first class. There, a trio of gay stewards (Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo) wait on the morally compromised elite, including scandalized banker Mr. Más (José Luis Torrijo), a suspiciously terse mystery man (José María Yazpik), a pair of newlyweds (Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Laya Martí), an actor/lothario (Guillermo Toledo), and a dominatrix (Cecilia Roth) to the rich and famous. They're joined by one interloper from economy class, a cheery virgin psychic (Lola Dueñas) for whom knowledge is power.
What follows amounts to a perverted comedy of manners, with the characters spilling drinks, secrets, and sperm in a haphazard, fearful response to potential sudden death. Almodóvar merrily doses his characters with mescaline-laced Valencia cocktails, while the bisexual pilots (Antonio de la Torre and Hugo Silva) carry on a comic soap opera with the stewards. But while the film isn't aimless, exactly, its plot feels that way as the director loses his grip on his audience.
I'm So Excited is as beautiful to regard as any Almodóvar picture, and he remains distinctively funky in his approach, but there's a tone-deafness to too much of the material here, from a rape sequence played for laughs to a musical number that painfully falls flat. And so Almodóvar insistently plays at being transgressive, growing curiouser and curiouser, but coming more from a place of "I'm going to make my dolls kiss. Won't that be naughty?" than one of productive social satire. Yes, the distractions of drugs and sex will always distract us from the other defining social forces—and, yes, as per an amusing running gag, we've given up on privacy—but Almodóvar effectively endorses it all, concluding we might as well have fun with it.