Pedro Almodóvar’s Los amantes pasajeros (2013)

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Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo), Fajardo (Carlos Areces) and Joserra (Javier Cámara) are three gay stewards on an airline flight from Spain to Mexico. Benito (Hugo Silva) and Alex (Antonio de la Torre) are the bisexual pilots in command of the plane. It appears that the plane is experiencing a malfunctioning in the landing gear and must thus operate an emergency landing. In order to do that they have to find an airfield that is completely cleared and even then it’s unclear if the plane will be able to land in one piece. The three stewards do their best to calm down the passengers in the business class, while the ones on the economy class have been put to sleep in order to avoid mass hysteria. The passengers in the business class decide that if they’re going to die, they’ll go out in style. What it comes down to is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but like in Lost every character seems to be having an interesting backstory and possibly some dirty little secrets. 

Pedro Almodóvar is slowly but surely becoming one of my new favorite directors. Los amantes pasajeros (English title: I’m So Excited! WTF?) obviously isn’t his strongest work, but it is interesting to watch and discuss nonetheless and it’s not as bad as most people would think. Featuring the director’s signature humor and his love for strong colors and glossy décor, which are a bit more downplayed here, the film is will certainly please Almodóvar fans. It’s all there: The melodrama, the sexually ambiguous characters and even a bunch of cast regulars. Aside from proving that he is an auteur this film is very current in his subject matter. The way I understand this film is a big metaphor for what’s going on in the world right now. The film’s characters can be read as symbols for political figures.

It’s obvious that we, the normal people, are the people sleeping in the economy class. We have no clue what’s going on in the real world, behind the curtains. Some of us may be more privileged, financially speaking, and flying business class, but they don’t have any real power either. They may have connections with people in power, but at the end of the day it’s the pilots and the people at the airport, in the tower (whom we only see briefly) who make the decisions and call the shots. The technical malfunctions mirror the current state of the world economy. The “rich” can party, ignore what’s going on, but all the “poor” can do is continue sleeping meaning they don’t even know what goes on and whether the plane lands safely or bursts into flames and explodes they won’t know what hit them.

I’m always happy when I feel that I’ve understood a film, so that enhances my love for it. However I also had some problems with Los amantes pasajeros, namely some structural issues. As with most Almodóvar I feel that his screenplays are a bit too unfocussed and get lost in silly details and secondary plot lines which lead nowhere. Sometimes it’s to draw out some characters, sometimes it just feels self-indulgent, either way it slows down the film and makes it feel less engaging. I like that we get to know each character’s backstory and their reason for being on the plane, though. Some of the jokes are really good, others might have been lost in translation. I’m not sure why the character’s sexuality is played up so much, it almost gets to the point of being cliché, but as a gay man himself I’m sure the last thing Almodóvar wants to do is make fun of homosexual characters.

All in all not a bad film, but not a great one either. I’m sure that it benefits from re-watches and my subtitles were a bit fast at times, but I’m not in a hurry to revisit this one anytime soon and I’ve got so many other Almodóvar films I want to see before I start with that. Loved seeing Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz at the beginning of the film, by the way, too bad they only had a cameo. I think that if you like the director, you enjoy light comedies with a pinch of melodrama and you’re always up for something a little extravagant this film is for you.

Rating on First Viewing: 6.5 out of 10

4 comments

  1. literaryvittles

    great review. I often feel the same about Almodóvar’s films re: the tangential storylines. And I think I have more patience for gradual plot development than most considering my love of “There Will Be Blood” and the first two seasons of “Mad Men.” His obsession with sexuality does sometimes take away from the other thematic elements in his films – I agree. To date, “Volver” is still my favorite of his films.

    • davideperretta

      Thank you! Yes, I agree Volver is definitely one of his best and personal favorites as well (of what I’ve seen so far). I actually like his obsession with sexuality, it reminds me of Fellini’s films in weird a way 🙂

  2. hannahagutter

    Brilliant review! I completely agree about his narrative structures, having had a discussion with many people about this topic it seems that others often find themselves feeling quite confused about the actual point or message of his films.

    I’m currently writing my BA dissertation on Pedro Almodovar and his work; more specifically his film Volver.

    Volver is a beautiful film that and I truly feel that it is underrated, especially within the United Kingdom; which is a shame. I honestly feel that his works is a movement of art and a statement about Spanish society, culture and political influences.

    I maybe think that people in the UK (not all) are often quite ignorant and/or are too lazy to invest time into watching films that are subtitled. Again this is a shame as I always think that filmmaking is a way of expression and it’s a way to express a feeling or a representation of a larger subject. That’s what I try and take away from Almodovar’s films anyway.

    I’m literally in love with anything Pedro Almodovar produces. 😀

    • davideperretta

      Hey Hannah, thanks for your comment and compliment.

      I thought Almodovar was universally loved 🙂 Now that I think of it though, I can see why people in the UK might not connect to his films so much, as say someone in Italy. He has a very “Southern European” style, that I guess might seem odd or weird to other cultures.

      I sadly agree with you, people don’t like subtitles. I’ve been trying to convince friends and family for years, but it’s pointless. They’re missing out on so many films (or watching them dubbed, which results in a poorer experience). I don’t know I guess all we can do is try.

      I really discovered Almodovar’s work only recently and am slowly but surly becoming a big fan.

      Best of luck on your dissertation! 😉

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