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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Review: I'm So Excited!

When arriving at the cinema to take in Pedro Almodovar's reentry into comedy for the first time in many a year, I knew next to nothing about the actual film's content due to the lack of promotional material that had made its way to the US. The most attractive element that drew me to the theater that day was a combination of name recognition and one of the better posters I've seen in quite some time. Ironically, the big names that had enveloped the little promotion I had seen had limited influence on the film itself.

In "I'm So Excited", a technical failure to Peninsula Flight 2549 leads to a dangerous situation for the passengers and crew. While the pilot (Antonio de la Torre) and co-pilot (Hugo Silva) work to find a clear landing strip for an unorthodox descent, the flight attendants in business class (Javier Camara , Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces) attempt to entertain and distract the few conscious passengers while suppressing their own personal issues and fears.

"I'm So Excited" is a stylish-looking film. Were it not for the use of smart phones, it would be easy to assume this was a period piece. Consciously, Almodovar echoes back to a far more glamorous period in air travel, here the 1960's, which highlights the "screwball comedy" nature of the script. The bright coloring filtered throughout and the outfits worn by both passengers and crew contribute to this nostalgic resonance. For the duration of its running time, the script elicited plenty of laughs both for its humor and its shock value. This cavalcade of funny moments helps "I'm So Excited" escape from the doldrums of what could have been a play shot with a single camera in a singular set, much like last year's sluggish "Carnage". While it's hard not to notice the somewhat stagey feel, Almodovar side-steps that potential pitfall through creative camera work.

Almodovar cast is stacked full of actors that are mostly unknown to US audiences, but as usual for this director, the bench is deep. With an ensemble that includes more than a dozen talented performers, it can be tough to stick out, yet the highlights are able to transcend the ensemble and almost attain leading status. In particular the two actors that command this attention are Cecilia Roth as Norma, a high profile and powerful female passenger that just can't seem to be satisfied; and Camara, a go-to player for Almodovar, as the head of the flight attendants.

Yet, with so many characters in such an ensemble piece, and while the acting for each of these branches holds up, the individual stories do not always. At least twelve of these characters are fleshed out and given a back story, with only half of them actually being worth following. The worst of these detours is during a foray into the life of a telenovela actor who is amongst the passengers. During these scenes, this is the only time that "I'm So Excited" becomes a chore to watch. In addition, the biggest names gracing the film, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, only show up for the first few minutes to set the plot in motion. Their scene would be easily lifted out without affected the quality of the film, making their involvement feel like trailer fodder.

"I'm So Excited" is funny and upbeat, and a fairly enjoyable, but forgettable, ride. It's nice to see Almodovar return to his roots, but I do think there is a potential for some disappointment or "meh" factor for his fervent followers. The film is worth seeing, but waiting for a streaming or rental option might be your best bet.

I give it a B
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