What happens when three gay stewards, a bisexual pilot, a virgin psychic, and a hit man get on a jumbo jet?
If it's a Pedro Almodóvar film, quite a lot - including a mescaline-alcohol-and-panic-fueled orgy of confessional dialogue, sex acts, arguments, confessional monologues, and more sex acts.
So goes Almodóvar's 19th feature, I'm So Excited, a comedic sex romp set on a transatlantic flight from Spain to Mexico. This is one of the Spanish master's lighter diversions - at least since 1990's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! It's a minor, frothy little bottle-drama with half-a-dozen characters contained, for the most part, in four small sets - the plane's cockpit, the stewards' galley, first class, and tourist class.
Critics are divided. Some love its theatrical excesses, others are nonplussed. Some are angry at its limited scope.
Anger? It's wasted energy. Fact is, Almodóvar's aperitif-sized comedy hits the spot, with that same anarchic mix of comedic, metasexual, and musical elements that made his work so beloved in America in 1988, with the release of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Admittedly, the latest offering hardly compares to that classic.
I'm So Excited has a tenuous premise: The airplane's landing equipment is jammed, which means the pilots have to circle over Madrid, waiting for an emergency runway to be prepared.
Afraid of a passenger mutiny, the film's unlikely heroes - supergay stewards Joserra (Javier Cámara), Fajas (Carlos Areces), and Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) - slip everyone a sedative. But a handful of passengers in first class wake up early and divine that the plane is in trouble. Will they all die in a fiery, jet-fuel inferno of twisted steel?
It's a motley crew: Mr. Más (José Luis Torrijo) is a Bernard Madoff-esque, disgraced corporate CEO who has been exposed as a crook. Norma (Cecilia Roth), a former dominatrix and madame, has become infamous for gathering compromising information about some of the country's most powerful men. Bruna (Lola Dueñas), a charming woman in her 40s with psychic abilities, vows to lose her virginity before the plane crashes. Infante, a sexy hit man (José María Yazpik), has been hired to kill one of his fellow passengers. And then there's a famous movie star and lothario named Ricardo (Ricardo Galán).
In a panic that their passengers will panic, the three stewards ply them with drinks laced with the psychedelic drug mescaline. And they try to keep the passengers' minds off their impending doom with a ludicrous rendition of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited."
You can guess the rest: One by one, the passengers break down and reveal their darkest secrets, their regrets, and their desires. They pair up, clothes are peeled off, and much good sex is had by all.
This is good, half-dirty fun, a guilty pleasure that will tickle your imagination for a night but won't last much longer.
I'm So Excited *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. With Carlos Areces, Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth, José Luis Torrijo. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 mins.
Parent's guide: R (strong sexual content, drug use, smoking)
Playing at: Ritz East, Rave Center at the Ritz/NJ.