Monday, February 24, 2014

I'm So Excited (2013): Hiding the Gays in Full View

I'm So Excited (2013)
dir: Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar is openly gay.

I have to open with that statement because I had to remind myself of this at certain points during this film, as it seems almost as if he wasn't.

I'm So Excited! is Almodovar's return to the sudsy soapy farce that he made his name with in the 1980s. With a plot that is lighter than air, and a touch that waffles between soap opera and farcical hilarity, Almodovar has created what would normally be one of his signature films, this time as a bottle episode.

The bottle in this case is an airplane. I'm So Excited focuses on a plain going from Madrid to Mexico City, but early in the flight they notice the landing gear will not be able to deploy, and they're going to have to do an emergency landing, and so they're circling around Toledo until they land.

The meat of the movie is how the 3 gay business class stewards are going to entertain the irritated business class passengers, and the pilots. Also, how personal issues on the ground need to be dealt with, and love lives that happen on and off the plane. It's all very light, very sudsy and doesn't mean much. Either you're pulled in to the drama and laughing with the crew, or you're not going to find much to chew on.

Through the personal lives, Almodovar deals with his usual litany of issues, especially all things sexual. There's an actress/singer/dominatrix on board. The head steward is having an affair with the pilot, who was just caught cheating on the steward with the supposedly hetero co-pilot, who later has sex with another steward. There's the actor who has a personal life that gets dealt with, then he gets shuffled to the back of the movie.

It's all very witty and gay...except. Yes, there's an except in here. The first issue is an issue of sexual assault. All of the second class passengers have been drugged for the movie, as well as their stewardesses. But, the first class denizens get drunk and high on mescaline, and then get horny and fuck each other. One woman, who apparently can't get either the bank guy nor the actor to fuck her moves to second class, and proceeds to blow then fuck herself on a drugged, unconscious guy's dick. It's all supposed to be very light and funny, and the scene is played out for laughs. But, it's kind of risky and gross like Almodovar hasn't played for light laughs in awhile.

The second issue is less damning, and much weirder. During this orgy of ribald first class sexuality, the straights have fairly explicit sex. I mean, it's not full on penetrative, but bodies are certainly banging and riding each other. But, the gays are pulled off screen practically. We see the co-pilot get a blowjob, but we never see the head moving of the steward. And, the 69 he comments on later is totally not shown. And, the pilot and head steward having make up sex, are shown behind closed bathroom doors. They are literally having sex in the water CLOSET.  The gays, for all the openness of the movie, are whisked away to hide their sexuality.

Almodovar seems to not have a problem with this. Which is weird, to me. If we're getting banging heteros, why can't we get a bit of banging homos too? This is a movie made by a gay man, who is basically getting light laughs by hiding gay sexuality in a movie that seems to celebrate all forms of sexuality otherwise. Not to mention, the co-pilot is so deeply closeted that he doesn't even know he's gay. The pilot has to tell the co-pilot that the co-pilot LOVED the dick, and is actually gay.  Plus, the pilot is bisexual and married to a lesbian. The lesbian and the head steward have an arrangement, and this is ok with both of them, even though the pilot thought that he was having a secret affair.

What the fuck is this? The 80s?!  Gay relationships have to be closeted, and shown under a layer of foam? Hetero hookups are celebrated, even if they're rapey? And, woman on man sexual assault is OK?  What is Almodovar trying to say? I know he set this as something retro with his colors and the interesting almost samba music, plus a cabaret interlude of I'm So Excited, but he's not condemning anything. He's practically celebrating the way things used to be. Is that his point? Is this a movie of "weren't things better back then?"

Barring all of these weird sexual hangups that openly gay Pedro Almodovar brings to the table, I'm So Excited! is actually an entertaining movie. Like The Brass Teapot, this is a fun movie even though it had some really nasty politics buried within it. With The Brass Teapot, those politics were nasty racial stereotypes and class issues. But, with I'm So Excited, its even worse as it is practically telling gays to go back in the closet and women that its OK to molest strange men. Can I recommend it? Not with good conscience. It's a fun movie, but damn does it set back sexual politics by a few decades.

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