The trades have turned in the first reviews, and first up is Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter: “Giving a whole new meaning to the word ‘cockpit,’ Pedro Almodóvar’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.”
“Following a short runway scene with cameos from Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas as a couple of airport workers (the cast reunites thesps from all phases of the helmer’s career), the action moves 10,000 feet up, into an airplane packed with neurotics that is apparently Mexico-bound, but has a technical problem,” writes Jonathan Holland in Variety. “Squeezed into slightly overstretched uniforms, a trio of swishy male flight attendants keep the banter lively: Joserra (Javier Camara), a high-strung motormouth incapable of telling a lie; skinny tequila- and tablet-fueled Ulloa (Raul Arevalo); and the overweight and repressed Fajas (Carlos Areces), who carries with him a portable altar at which he prays for passengers’ souls. Most of the fun happens in business class, since those traveling in economy have been given a sleeping drug—a nice metaphor for the way Spanish politics uses the media to placate its people.”
“Camp, kitsch and deliciously entertaining,” finds Screen‘s Mark Adams. “After slightly darker material in more recent years, the film harks back to the Almodóvar of Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1987), and while there are some comments on Spain’s current political and social situation in amidst the sexual shenanigans, I’m So Excited! is a deliberately broad and bold sexual comedy. Though on the surface it has the cheap-and-cheerful look of a camp aircraft attendant comedy (particularly the UK series The High Life, or a gayer variation of Pan Am), Almodóvar packs his film with delightfully over-the-top performances all working from a tight and witty script, and pushes the comedy concept as far as he can.”
Update, 4/12: For Gaël Schmidt-Cléach, writing for Film International, “most everything in I’m So Excited feels similarly recycled from other, better Almodóvar movies. Dick jokes make up what feels like half the film, and after a while, the question of whether or not giving another man a blowjob makes you gay stops being funny (the joke goes on way past that point, and ends in an utterly predictable manner). The characters are paper-thin, seeming only to exist because Almodóvar thinks there’s something inherently funny about, say, an overweight, flamboyantly gay flight attendant who’s also a devout Catholic. As it turns out, not really, or at least not so much that you can hope for it to carry your movie for 90 minutes.”
Update, 5/2: “One litmus test for auteurism could be whether a director is able to do his or her thing in a tightly confined space,” writes Ben Walters for Time Out, and of course, you can see what’s coming. But still: “Stagecoach and Lifeboat are unmistakably the work of John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock, despite being largely confined to, well, a stagecoach and a lifeboat. Some thrive on this model, others seem perversely ill-suited to it: Roman Polanski’s Repulsion is in many ways his creation story, while part of the appeal of 127 Hours was seeing how the ceaselessly kinetic Danny Boyle would tell a story about a man stuck under a rock. The vast majority of Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited takes place on board a passenger jet, and there’s no question of it having been made by anyone but this Spanish filmmaker.”
Updates, 5/3: “There is a great deal that is not laugh-out-loud funny, but rather a hallucinogenic set of laboratory conditions, as in many films where ‘all bets are off’ for reasons such as a heat wave, a war or a zombie invasion,” writes Lucy Bolton for Times Higher Education. All in all, the film “combines heartfelt quandaries of sexual honesty and familial priorities with contemporary comment on Spain’s financial meltdown and a desire to ‘out’ the characters’ pretty meaty secrets. Above all, it is a screwball sex comedy from a master of the genre revisiting his roots. This is what Carry on Cabin Crew looks like in Almodóvar’s hands: a cabaret of camp and confession that more closely resembles Airplane! than All About My Mother.”
“Everything is bright, arch and kitschy, to the point where we think: does Almodóvar at his age and eminence need to imitate François Ozon in his glee-club style?” Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times: “The messaging makes it worse. The economy cabin has been drugged into unconsciousness: a metaphor for the sedation of the working classes. The rich passengers, differently doped, expose their colors as corrupt masters of the universe. One of Spain’s actual white-elephant airports plays the ghostly hub of the last scenes, a vast, deserted vacancy crying out for use and purpose. Ah Spain. Ah Europe. Ah Almodóvar. You/we are all crying out right now. It makes for an urgent, clamorous, topically themed screen comedy, if not actually a good one.”
But in Little White Lies, David Jenkins argues that “this triumphant return to the realm of the risqué feels like Almodóvar’s pointed attempt to combat a certain cosy sobriety that has infected his work of late…. If Broken Embraces was Almodóvar’s paean to the pursed romanticism of Douglas Sirk and The Skin I Live In his take on Georges Franju’s fixation with identity and masks, then I’m So Excited continues this run of cine-monuments to classic-era filmmakers. The inspiration here appears to be Frank Tashlin, the director who began his career as a Disney animator and then went on to make jocular, innovative comedies with Jerry Lewis (The Geisha Boy) and Bob Hope (Son of Paleface) alongside ribald pop culture satires Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Girl Can’t Help It. Tashlin’s vibrant aesthetic, dogged mischievousness, his sense of coiled cynicism and his wicked way with a song-and-dance number suffuse every frame of I’m So Excited.”
“It’s all watchable and pretty funny,” writes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, “and the big setpiece is the three wildly queeny stewards Joserra, Fajas (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Arévalo) going into a drug-fuelled song-and-dance routine: a rendering of the Pointer Sisters’ ‘I’m So Excited.’ And yet the odd thing is that they don’t seem to be all that excited. They are very drunk and very camp and very sarky, but it isn’t exactly the same thing.”
In the Telegraph, where David Gritten talks with Almodóvar, Robbie Collin finds the film “vertiginously disappointing in the way only bad films from great filmmakers can be.” More from Anthony Quinn (Independent, 1/5), Emma Simmonds (Arts Desk, “enjoyably, knowingly overdone”), and Lisa Williams, who takes Almodóvar to task in Electric Sheep for the not one but two rape scenes.
Update, 5/7: “Pedro Almodóvar, who turns 64 in September, is Spain’s most important filmmaker since Luis Buñuel and one of the first directors to enter mainstream cinema as openly gay,” writes the Observer‘s Philip French. “He made the last great movie of the 20th century, All About My Mother, and the first great movie of the 21st century, Talk to Her. He began his career making courageous, outrageous low-budget comedies, pushing the envelope of taste and acceptability in the immediate aftermath of Franco’s dictatorship…. I’m So Excited! is a slight, likable movie, beautifully designed and charmingly performed…. Raising chuckles rather than hearty laughter, it invites our affection and collusion. The satire is mild rather than abrasive and as a metaphor for present-day Spain, which Almodóvar intends it to be, it’s hardly more than a faint finger wagging.”
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