I'M SO EXCITED
A technical failure has endangered the lives of the people on board Peninsula Flight 2549 bound for Mexico City from Madrid. The pilots Alex & Benito) (Antonio de la Torre m& Hugo Silva) are striving, along with their colleagues in the Control Center, to find a solution. The flight attendants and the chief steward, Joserra (Javier Camara) try to forget their own personal problems and devote themselves body and soul to the task of making the flight as enjoyable as possible for the passengers, while they wait for a solution. Life in the clouds is as complicated as it is at ground level, and for the same reasons ... sex and death.
Review by Louise Keller:
Brimming with the sauciness of earlier Pedro Almodóvar works, the flavour of this life-affirming comedy about sex, sexuality and transgression is on display in the scene when three gay flight attendants wave arms, flip wrists and sprint headlong into a lip-synching routine of the title song by the Pointer Sisters. It's a sequence that could sit comfortably at the gay Mardi Gras. With its themes of infidelity, bondage and sexual penchants of every persuasion, Almodóvar's film is as lightweight as the fluffy clouds into which the mechanically challenged aircraft in which most of the action takes place flies.
It may not have the pathos of films such as All About My Mother and despite an over-weighted gay theme, there's a lot to like in this colourful Almodóvar blast of joie de vivre, as secrets are revealed, desires unleashed and the complexities of relationships are exposed.
The mood is set by a lollypop opening sequence in which brightly coloured cartoon images of planes, phones and glasses of wine are juxtaposed to a breezy version of Fur Elise in common time. As a little treat (before we become airbound in a plane whose destination is Mexico), there's a brief tarmac scene with Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.
Then, we are up, up and away, high above the clouds with an overtly gay crew knocking tequilas before things start to unspool. The faulty landing gear is revealed early in the piece and I laughed when we are told that all the sleeping passengers in economy class had been given a relaxant by the airhostesses, to deal with 'Economy Class Syndrome'. Most of the action takes place in the cockpit and business class.
Almodóvar creates colourful characters and here we are entertained by a dominatrix paranoid there is a contract on her life, a philandering soap star, a suicidal mistress, an embezzling businessman estranged from his daughter, a hit man, hung-over newly weds, a psychic anxious to lose her virginity, a bi-sexual pilot and a gay flight attendant with loose lips.
While each character fascinates and amuses, the cumulative effect has a ripple effect allowing any reserves to be broken down. The performances are excellent with special mention to Javier Cámara as the gay steward and Cecilia Roth as the redhead whose successful bondage career began 'with barely a shirt on her back'.
One of the funniest ideas is when the philanderer, the dominatrix and embezzler need to make sensitive phone calls - but the private conversations are broadcast through the loudspeaker for all to hear. Another funny sequence is the scene when Valencia cocktails laced with mescaline are distributed to one and all, resulting in a plane-load of horny passengers unable to control their urges.
Some may criticize the film for an over indulgence in gay jokes, but for me, I was happy to go along for the ride. Great fun.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Pointer Sisters are responsible for the title of this flight of fancy from Pedro Almodóvar, their song - in its entirety - being reprised on board by the three camp flight attendants as a way of entertaining business class passengers while the plane circles helplessly in search of a safe landing strip. The original Spanish title, Los amantes pasajeros, a double entendre of 'the fleeting lovers' / 'the passenger lovers' is more apt but perhaps too clunky in English. Anyway, the title isn't as bothersome as the film is disappointing.
Almodóvar seems to have made it specifically for a gay audience, with ripe references, lots of talk about homosexual sex, and the very camp performances of the male flight attendants. These things by themselves wouldn't necessarily distance a mixed audience, but the material is too flimsy to hold up, even though there are a few (too few) Almodóvar flourishes in character revelation.
Perhaps amused by the superficial, we quickly get bored, despite the supposed tension of a faulty flight; it never feels real. As for the biggest names on the credit roll, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, they have the smallest roles, a single scene at the start which establishes (rather weakly) the genesis of the whole technical breakdown that causes the problem.
Actually, no, that causes the problem with the plane. The problem with the movie is the screenplay and yes, the direction. For a cinematic icon to get it so wrong, one has to assume it is deliberate; something to play with. His name is enough to get it financed, which shows that some filter is always useful in assessing expenditure of other people's money on a movie.
The performers are fine, but the performances are mostly too big, again an Almodóvar choice. But these are in search of a comedic outcome, compressed into the flight-from-gay-hell along with a number of personal crises. The latter are meant to be the melodramatic meat in this in-flight snack, but they seem oddly contrived - all of it does.
The focus on fallatio (including a discreet one in the aptly named cockpit) as a crude running gag adds to the off tone and the characters are not particularly likeable. Well, not likeable at all - nor interesting enough to overcome it, nor the fact that the screenplay is not grounded, as it were.
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I'M SO EXCITED (MA15+)
Los amantes pasajeros
CAST: Cecilia Roth, Lola Duenas, Blanca Suarez, Paz Vega, Cote Soler, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Laya Marti, Javier Camara, Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz
PRODUCER: Augustin Almodóvar, Esther Garcia
DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar
SCRIPT: Pedro Almodóvar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: José Luis Alcane
EDITOR: José Salcedo
MUSIC: Alberto Iglesias
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Antxón Gómez
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 19, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.