Hot List 2013: I'm So Excited!
By Jason Farago
Photography by Xevi Muntané
A banker, a movie star, a dominatrix, an assassin, and a sex-obsessed virgin with psychic powers are all trapped on a plane with broken landing gear. It sounds like the opening to a dirty and very complex joke, but actually it’s the plot of I’m So Excited! -- the uproarious, lightning-paced, 36,000-feet-over-the-top new comedy from Pedro Almodóvar (the film opens in the U.S. June 28). Fans of the revered Spanish filmmaker have watched him mature into a masterful director of intense dramas and dark thrillers. But I’m So Excited! marks a return to the high camp of his early career; it’s his most outrageous film, and his most flamboyant, in a decade or more.
“His energy, his focus, his passion: Everyone says the same things about Pedro and his films, but that’s the truth,” says Javier Cámara, who stars in I’m So Excited! as one of three gay flight attendants who lip sync a fierce rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ title song -- when they’re not drugging the passengers or fellating the pilots. Cámara is no stranger to the director’s world: He played a suspiciously tender nurse in Almodóvar’s 2002 masterpiece Talk to Her and a thieving drag queen with a traumatic past in 2004’s gloomy Bad Education. For this film, Almodóvar spent months assembling the ideal cast (including blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos from Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz as, of all things, airport baggage handlers), and even longer honing their performances. “He kept on rewriting the script, tailoring it to the specific actors and the current situation,” says Cámara. “The fact that we were going to be locked up on a plane for months also required extra rehearsals; Pedro rehearsed it with us as if we were doing a play. Maybe for his return to comedy he wanted to be like a tamer surrounded by beasts.”
The passengers in Almodóvar’s rather swank business-class cabin -- who include All About My Mother heroine Cecilia Roth and Volver star Lola Dueñas -- cope with the plane’s troubles by knocking back mescaline-spiked cocktails and seducing other flyers in varying states of consciousness. The dialogue, meanwhile, comes fast and furious, like an old Hollywood screwball comedy, but in Spanish and much sluttier. (You’ll learn a lot of gay slang for your next night out in Madrid, maricón.) According to Cámara, the cast prepared by watching classic films by Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder, as well as Almodóvar’s sassier early movies. “But Pedro’s someone who likes to go beyond the genres, even to transform them,” the actor says. “Even in his most heartbreaking dramas, there are moments of hilarious comedy.”
At first it may seem strange that Almodóvar has made such a campy film at a very bleak time for Spain. The ongoing European debt crisis has not just devastated the Spanish economy; it’s devastating Spanish culture, too, and at this year’s Goya Awards, Spain’s equivalent of the Oscars, one actor after another took to the stage to denounce the government’s cuts to film funding. Yet although the crisis isn’t mentioned explicitly, I’m So Excited! is very much a contemporary film. One character is under investigation for financial fraud and corruption, while the airport where the plane makes its emergency landing is an unused shell, built during the boom years and abandoned after the bubble has burst. Almodóvar’s campiness and his engagement with the present go hand in hand -- which, for Cámara, is totally natural.
“Pedro absorbs everything that surrounds him -- good and bad things,” the actor says. “It is a subtle but heavy critique. It’s just normal that the current economic crisis transpired somehow in the film, because Pedro has always been a mirror of Spanish society.” And even in this crisis-stricken moment, the reflection is just fabulous.