Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published September 22nd 2013
Almodovar just wants to have fun
Director: Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Talk To Her, Volver) Cast: Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Hugo Silva, Lola Duenas
After years of highly acclaimed, complex dramas, Pedro Almodovar has turned back the clock to make the kind of film he started his career with - a camp, bawdy comedy.
Javier Camara and Raul Arevalo as a pair of sex obsessed, heavy drinking, drug taking, flamboyant trolly dollies
While no-one could begrudge the Spanish cinema icon from returning to a genre that helped make him an international star in the early 80s, the times have changed significantly since then. Back then Spain was enjoying its new found freedom after decades of being ruled by Franco's fascist dictatorship. Almodovar's provocative films containing recreational drug use, cross dressing and every form of sexual orientation, were designed to shock the establishment and give voice to a social uprising.
To see the director doing the same thing in 2013 without that cultural context leaves us with nothing but a bit of silly naughtiness. One could view this is a political allegory, with a faulty plain in peril representing Spain's economy. Certainly the scenario of having the economy class drugged into submission while those in business class enjoy a hedonistic free-for-all is clear social commentary, but this is hardly the subversive stuff that catapulted Almodovar to notoriety.
Carlos Areces plays the equally flamboyant, but sexually repressed Fajas.
There's also the issue of containing the story almost entirely within the confines of a plane. While the trademark retro opening credit graphics are there, opportunities for the director to fill the screen with his wonderful eye for colourful interiors, costumes and visual flourishes is seriously diminished.
On the plus side, Almodovar's name has ensured that an A list of Spanish actors are on board and they all perform gamely. Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo and Carlos Areces as the three camp flight attendants are the comic conductors orchestrating the kitsch and crass proceedings. Hugo Silva also does a good job of subverting his studly image as the co-pilot in denial over his escalating homoerotic tendencies.
Long-time Almodovar collaborator, Cecilia Roth, plays high class dominatrix, Norma Boss
Much of the dialogue and delivery will be best appreciated by a Spanish speaking audience. Like a lot of comedy, some of the humour is lost in translation, and there are references to the directors earliest films which will be lost on many.
Almodovar always maintained he wanted this to be a break from his more upscale fare, more a treat for his long-standing die-hard fans than the critics. No doubt he relished the chance to cut loose and enjoy himself.
The result is a trashy, frothy (literally, in the last scene) piece of disposable entertainment which will please the faithful but leave fans of his most famous films cold. It's not one of his best, but maybe he had to get this out of his system.