Thursday, May 2, 2013

‘I’m So Excited!’ (2013) directed by Pedro Almodóvar

I’m So Excited! is a pretty damn apt title. Everything and everyone is ‘excited’, in the most salacious possible way.  The (paper-thin) plot concerns a jet with a landing gear malfunction seeking a runway to land on.  With the economy class drugged into unconsciousness, the majority of the action takes place in business class, the steward’s kitchen and the cockpit.  As the passengers sit contemplating their impending fiery death, three air stewards try their best to take their minds off their situation.

This sounds a bit melodramatic - and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this might be something along the lines of Flight.  But this film isn’t remotely concerned with serious drama, or character explorations.  Truth be told, the jet isn’t even really a jet at all. It’s a rock hard metal cock thrusting its way through the sky, searching for a warm, wet runway to cover in a sticky white jizzy foam. Does this sound too crude?  Well don’t bother seeing this film then because that’s the tone from moment one. Almodóvar revels in a seemingly endless stream of gags about blowjobs, drugs stuffed into asses, mescaline-induced fuckhazes and giggly gay promiscuity.  In fact, regarding that last point, I’m So Excited! might be about as gay as a mainstream film can possibly be. 

Raul Arevalo, Javier Camara and Carlos Areces as the air stewards
We’re all sadly used to panicked homophobic shrieks that popular culture has somehow been co-opted as a vehicle for “gay propaganda”, some imaginary bizarro form of advertisement for a fabulous gay lifestyle.  These are paranoid fantasies that say quite a bit about the mindsets of those that hold them.  But, brilliantly, I’m So Excited! is ACTUALLY gay propaganda - it may as well be a feature length infomercial for the myriad pleasures of homosexuality.  

This makes it somewhat unique in mainstream cinema.  Sure, you get films that aim for a gay-friendly camp aesthetic, but it’s rare that you’ll see a film pin its colours to the mast with such obvious glee.  Almodóvar infuses the film with an anarchic joy, apparently seeing just what heights of ridiculous sexual excess he can get away with.  The answer is a hell of a lot - it’s difficult to imagine anyone else getting away with a comedic scene featuring male air stewards licking the pilot's cum off each other’s fingers.  Suddenly There’s Something About Mary seems rather tame and quaint.

Almodóvar’s sheer audacity is going to divide audiences.  The film received excoriating reviews from Spanish critics and currently sits at a pitiful 5.6/10 on IMDB.  This week’s UK preview screenings (which, in a wickedly ironic twist, were organised by, of all things, The Daily Telegraph) have reported wide numbers of walk-outs, with some screenings ending up with less than half the audience remaining.  

Just to be clear, I’m not accusing those who walked out of being homophobic, no matter which side your bread is buttered this is a film that takes a certain sense of humour to ‘get it’.  The tone of the film tends towards the Carry On end of the comedy spectrum, and its cheeky, sex positive atmosphere feels like the kind of thing that the disastrous Danny Dyer vehicle Run For Your Wife was aiming for and missed completely.  There’s a refreshing honesty and happiness to this film that I found difficult to dislike, and there’s a palpable sense that everyone involved in the film’s production had a great time making it.  

The only real downside is that this is such a slight film, and so steadfastly refuses to take itself seriously, that the few brief nods towards sincerity are drowned out by the increasing silliness of the film.  These people are cartoons, and though there are very faint moments of pathos, I never came anywhere close to caring about whether they lived or died.  But this overly light-hearted tone helps the film in another way; there's a scene where someone has sex with an unconscious man, and the tone prevents the film tipping over into disturbing territory.

On a lighter note, there's some distractingly blatant product placement for Samsung smartphones.  Now I’ve got to hand it to Samsung - they make a damn good phone - but there are innumerable closeups on Samsung phones throughout much of the film, even a slow motion shot of one gently spinning through the air.  After seeing this, the last thing on my mind was buying a mobile phone, and I wonder if Samsung realised just what kind of film they were signing up for.  Finally in my list of moans, Penelope Cruz was only on screen for a few short minutes, and a film can only be improved with more of her in it.

This is very much one of Almodóvar’s lesser works, but I’m damning with faint praise.  I’ve always judged a film's success by how well it achieves its goal.  Almodóvar’s goal here is to create something carefree, happy, sexy and most importantly funny as hell.  He’s achieved all this in spades.  It’s a difficult film to unreservedly recommend but by this point you’ve made up your mind if it’s for you or not.  Personally I thought it was hilarious.


‘I’m So Excited!’ is on general release from May 3rd.

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