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I’m So Excited (***)

The legendary filmmaker heads back to his comedy roots…

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los_amantes_pasajerosFor many, Pedro Almodovar is a cinematic god more or less beyond reproach. Personally, I’m not as wild about him as some, but I definitely appreciate his talents and distinctive filmmaking perspective. I’ve actually preferred when he does something a little less “Almodovar” like The Skin I Live In, but with his return to comedy, I’m So Excited gives me another movie of his to praise. This is a very funny, somewhat light (especially for him), and just out there comedy that hides its inner message within a menagerie of debauchery aboard a plane in flight. The cast is having a good time just like the filmmaker is, so it rubs off. There’s even a song and dance sequence during this flight, plus lots of sex and talk about death. In many ways, this is Almodovar’s most overt celebration of sexuality in all of its forms, and go figure that it’s done within the confines of a broad comedy. It’s not likely to wow those who long for films of his like Bad Education and Volver, but if you’re fond of early Almodovar or are looking for a less dour experience, this could be the flick for you. This is the rare movie of his that leaves you feeling good…

After a quick scene on the ground that features cameos by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz as workers on the ground at the airport, we pretty much spend the whole film on board this one plane as it waits to land. A technical problem is holding things up, making the edgy and quirky passengers as well as staff even more neurotic. There are the gossipy flight attendants Joserra (Javier Camara), who’s honest to a fault, Ulloa (Raul Arevalo), who’s constantly taking a drink or popping a pill, and Fajas (Carlos Areces) who’s about as judgmental and religious as it gets, plus passengers like Bruna (Lola Duenas) the psychic, Norma Boss (Cecilia Roth), a dominatrix to Spain’s upper class, Galan (Guillermo Toledo) the soap opera star, Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo) the less than honest businessman, and Infante (Jose Maria Yazpik), a hit man. They all interact in zany ways, mostly with the crew trying to keep the passengers occupied. They do this by essentially drugging them all, leaving them to their own sexual conquests. It’s pretty light stuff, though the message of Spanish politics waiting to end a holding pattern is certainly there if you look for it.

Film-still-from-Im-So-Exc-005The cast are all having fun here, so it’s infectious. I can’t say that anyone does an especially fantastic job, but Carlos Areces does steal a number of scenes. Areces is a talented comedian and could easily steal the show in an American production during the next few years. Watch out for him in Hollywood. Javier Camara and Raul Arevalo play off of each other well, plus with Areces, but they didn’t wow me. The crew was more interesting to me than the passengers, but Lola Duenas, Cecilia Roth, Guillermo Toledo, Jose Luis Torrijo and Jose Maria Yazpik do solid enough acting jobs. I was amused by the cameos by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, but that’s about the extent of their work here. Neither Banderas nor Cruz contributes much beyond just pleasing you by showing up. The only one I’d really speak out for is Areces, though no one is bad by any stretch…

For Pedro Almodovar, this is a nice change of pace for him. As mentioned earlier, I prefer when he does something a little different like this, as opposed to doing melodrama after melodrama. He’s certainly capable of switching genres, so here’s hoping that he does that more going forward. His writing is as crisp as ever and he’s got some nice raunchy humor on display here. I wasn’t wild about his direction, just because the film has too much of a soapy look for me, but it’s not a huge complaint. Mostly, I just appreciated the writing that he has on display here. I wouldn’t expect another Best Original Screenplay nomination for him this time around, but it’s perhaps his most satisfying script in some time. I hope this isn’t the last comedy we see from him, as he’s more than adapt at tickling your funny bone.

Overall, I’m So Excited is probably lesser Almodovar for most, but I enjoyed it as much as anything he’s ever done. It’s not heavy, though it’s far from a disposable comedy. It’s just a good time at the movies and a film that deserves a wider audience that Almodovar usually is afforded. With the proper marketing, this could be one of his bigger hits. The potential is certainly there, at least. As for me, I laughed a lot and have no problem recommending this film to you. I’m pretty sure it’ll leaving you feeling happy and warm, so what more can you as for? This is one of the better comedies of 2013 so far.

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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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