Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Starring Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces, Antonio De La Torre, Hugo Silva, Lola Duenas, Cecilia Roth
After the sombre but brilliant Broken Embraces and The Skin I Live In, Spanish auteur, Pedro Almodovar, must have felt the need to loosen up a little. The result is this gossamer-light and bubblegum bright sex comedy, set almost entirely in the confines of a passenger plane.
After a bickering ground crew (including Almodovar regulars Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em cameos) skimp on a pre-flight safety check, the landing gear on a commercial flight from Spain to Mexico is damaged and the plane is left circling aimlessly, waiting for a runway to free up so that an emergency landing can be attempted. All the passengers bar those in Business Class are drugged unconscious – for reasons that remain murky, it must be said – and so a trio of delightfully camp flight attendants (Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo and Carlos Areces) are left with only a handful of eccentric characters to keep calm through the emergency. Their tactics? Tequila, drugs and showtunes, for the most part.
Plotwise, it’s as loose and woolly as you could imagine, with the premise serving as an excuse for Almodovar to put a collection of typically Almodovarian characters in a confined space and let them bounce off each other to largely entertaining effect. Our three sexy stews aside, there are the two bisexual pilots, Benito and Alex (Hugo Silva and Antonio de la Torre); the ageing actor, Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), who needs to get in touch with his mentally ill girlfriend on the ground (Paz Vega, another micro-cameo); a dodgy banker (Jose Luis Torrijo) skipping town ahead of a financial scandal; Norma (Almodovar muse Cecilia Roth), a high-priced dominatrix convinced that the plane’s mechanical problems are evidence of a hit on her at the behest of one of her powerful clients and more.
It’s all entertaining enough, if only on the most superficial levels. At a stretch, you could maybe pull out some subtext about class and wealth, but the film is having too much fun being fabulous to be bothered with all that. A couple of serio-comic moments aside, this is essentially a steadily escalating succession of risqué jokes and innuendos, peaking with the flight attendants’ show-stopping – and we mean that quite literally; the movie screeches to a halt – performance of the eponymous disco hit made famous by The Pointer Sisters.
If you’re on board with that, you’ll have a good time of it. This is a bouncy, upbeat trifle of a film, vibrant and uncomplicated, which is the sort of thing any cinematic diet needs an occasional dose of. Those who were expecting more of the murky moral mediations of The Skin I Live In will doubtlessly be disappointed, but even they must admit it’s fun seeing Pedro have a laugh once again.