We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
When a Spanish airliner undergoes some in-flight technical difficulties, the cabin crew do the sensible thing: drug the passengers, crack open the cocktails and crank up The Pointer Sisters’ signature hit. A camp sex farce from Pedro Almódovar.
As if to mark the 25th anniversary of his breakthrough hit Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Spanish auteur Pedro Almódovar here reaches back across two decades of cocked-eyebrow dramas and cheeky genre workouts (culminating most recently in 2011’s Bafta-winning thriller The Skin I Live In) to revisit the frenetic filmmaking style that first made his name.
But whereas Almódovar’s weaponised camp served in the 1980s as a powerful exorcism of post-Franco Spanish conservatism, a liberated reclamation of stereotype on a fiercely unique filmmaker’s terms, I’m So Excited sees the director deploying his colourful caricature in service of a more satirical purpose.
For while I’m So Excited is for the most part a frothy, silly comedy, it’s central conceit - a beleaguered plane, flying in vain, hoping not to fall on Spain - plays out as a culture in microcosm, and as the doped-up, distracted cabin crew throw caution to the wind and indulge their rich and famous passengers with booze, sex and dance-pop, the film becomes something of a chaotic éxpose of business-class corruption in a post-financial crisis society. And the economy passengers, fittingly, are knocked out cold.
In true carnivalesque fashion, Almódovar’s characters hint at high society’s failings, but the director stops short of making this a true state-of-the-nation address. An embezzling banker (José Luis Torrijo) is high-tailing it to Mexico, a scarpering soap star (Guillermo Toledo) leaves a trail of suicidal former lovers in his wake, and it’s revealed that an infamous sexpot (Cecilia Roth) has been hoarding sex tapes featuring every major figure in Spanish politics, but there’s nothing that knocking boots and downing a few mescaline-laced cocktails can’t fix.
Throughout, Almódovar’s singular use of bright colours and freewheeling storytelling is as fresh and unique as ever, but there’s something a little quaint, a little Carry On, about his obsession with that most immediate of camp stereotypes, the gay flight attendant. There are three on this flight, and two bisexual pilots, too, but this isn’t so much transgressive as it is a platform for some wholly ridiculous farce, and a joyous lip-sync dance sequence to the song that gave the film its English-language title. Those hoping for substance won’t find much here; this is Almódovar losing control and liking it.
After dabbling in genre dress-up filmmaking, Almodovar gleefully returns to the broad, colourful burlesque of his early work. Although, without the transgressive attitude and closeted context, this sexy satire is all froth and no balls.
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