Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Antonio Banderas, Hugo Silva
“When I was in the army, I had more blowjobs than an airbed” exclaims one of the flight stewards of Peninsula Flight 2549… if you hadn’t been told that this lewd mile-high comedy had been written and directed by respected auteur Pedro Almodovar, you’d be forgiven for being none the wiser. Having spent a large portion of his career exploring lurid aspects of the human psyche, Almodovar goes back to his comedic roots with a film that’s fun but forgettable.
We follow the first class passengers and flight crew of Flight 2549 as they come to terms with the fact that their plane may disintegrate due to faulty landing gear. Deciding to make the best of such a bad situation, both crew and passengers throw caution to the wind by indulging in sexual ambiguity, honesty with each other and a whole lot of Valencia Cocktail. This is certainly Almodovar’s most openly gay film to date, with homo-sexualized zingers (such as the one above) flying at the screen from the first minute to the last. It’s definitely the strongest element of the film; the comedy may not be sophisticated but it does make you laugh. An ongoing thread involving the sexuality of Hugo Silva’s co-pilot is the films strongest example; the steely determination in Silva’s character to prove his homosexuality to his bi-sexual captain, raising more than it’s fair share of laughs.
Unfortunately many of the other characters feel underdeveloped, especially the first class passengers who we only really get to know during overlong monologues. Guillermo Toledo’s actor Ricardo Galan suffers most; ironically his backstory is given the most screen time but the story feels so tedious and is so void of laughs that it becomes very languorous, very quickly. Cecilia Roth fairs better as the sexually charged Norma, a lady who has created her own power through blackmail and deception. But even then, with so many other narratives to explore, Norma’s story feels glossed over and a third act twist becomes an ineffective afterthought.
Thank goodness then for the flight crew, led by Javier Camara’s head steward Joserra, who hold the screen whenever they’re on it. The films centerpiece, in which the 3 stewards perform a lip-synch performance of The Pointer Sister’s ‘I’m So Excited’ is worth the entrance fee alone. In an interview, Almodovar said the film was an attempt to return to “the crazy comedy tone from which I had moved away recently” and in his 3 leads he finds this; they’re crude, they’re flawed and most importantly hilarious.
Much has been made of how the flight is a metaphor for Spain’s economic climate, with one character’s subplot involving having to answer for money crimes. However, this only derails the film further, the metaphor being so tonally out of place with the rest of the script. You can’t help but feel Almodovar is trying to push the point too much, an ongoing joke involving the mass drugging of economy class being a prime example.
Not without it’s moment, but with so many underdeveloped characters and an overcooked subtext, this is not classic Almodovar. The crude humor will raise more than it’s fair share of laughs, but newcomers may wonder why so much fuss is made over Almodovar’s work.