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March 1, 2014

Los amantes pasajeros

by Franz Patrick


Amantes pasajeros, Los (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

Peninsula 2549 is a plane on its way to Mexico City. A virgin psychic, Bruna (Lola Dueñas), goes inside the cockpit and tells the pilot and co-pilot (Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva) that she senses something big will happen on the flight—that it will be a special day for everyone. She is told a little secret: aside from the folks in business class, the pilots, and the three gay stewards (Raúl Arévalo, Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces), everyone else is drugged in order to prevent a panic—the plane has been flying in circles for some time. There is something wrong with the landing gear and so the plane must land in a special way. They are currently looking for an airport that can accommodate their predicament.

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, “Los amantes pasajeros” is a disappointing misfire. The comedy being as light as a cloud is not the issue. The problem is that the screenplay has no interesting or original story to tell. The film, however, works as a hit-or-miss sketch. Some sections are riotously funny, a few are worthy of chuckles, and some fall completely flat, lifeless, boring.

I am convinced that even Almodóvar was aware that the material lacks a special something in order to keep it afloat, so to speak. So, he makes us sit through subplots that feel completely forced. One that stunned me because it is so out of place involves an actor (Guillermo Toledo) who calls his suicidal girlfriend. For a while the picture puts us on the ground but it serves no point. Are we supposed to learn something about the actor? The women he loves? Is the idea of romantic love being satirized? Because the approach is so broad, the message or the point, if any, is vague and confusing.

Even one character who is potentially interesting—because she is so unpleasant—fails to entertain. Norma (Cecilia Roth) acts as though everyone else is beneath her. On top of that, she is paranoid, dominating, and yet she can be open given enough… inspiration added to her drink. Although she talks a lot, there is only one thing that is surprising about her. Even the bit of surprise is not worth the wait.

The focus of “I’m So Excited!” should have been on the crew. One of the funniest bits involves the three fabulously effeminate stewards performing a dance to The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” They are so lively and out there that I felt like I was having a great time in a Vegas cabaret show (while I’m intoxicated). Why can’t the rest of the movie have that level of ferocity? The Almodóvar that I am used to is someone who constantly pushes the envelope and knows what works on screen consistently. You know what would have made that scene funnier? If the actors actually sang the song. I would not have cared if the singing were bad. It would have been a bigger risk and taking risks is what great filmmaking is about.

I also enjoyed some of the jokes about sexuality—bisexuality, to be exact—between the pilot and co-pilot. I think Almodóvar wishes to comment on how we, as a society, are so willing to subscribe to a label that by doing so, sometimes it prevents us not only from having a good time and being open to experiences but also from finding happiness. There is a minute trace of seriousness behind some of the jabs and they would have had more impact if the writer-director did not prescribe to making a light comedy from end to end.

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