Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Rating: 3 out of 5 flamboyant stewards on a plane with faulty landing gear and a whole lot of colorful, interesting passengers… Can’t tell if I just gave away the plot or set up for a punch line that never quite lands in this film, no pun intended.
To be honest, I don’t have a lot to say about this film, which is a shame because Almodovar is a filmmaker whose body of work often consists of texts rich with talking points. He is perhaps a little odd, at first anyway; perhaps The Skin I Live In wasn’t the best introduction to his stuff. That being said, I think I was expecting, well, something odder even than what I got here.
I always approach Almodovar from the perspective that he isn’t Spain: he is his own person with his own specific set of concerns, which often deal with LBGT characters or issues and other semi-subversive sexual topics. He isn’t indicative of a national cinema nearly as much as he is an auteur who flourishes in American art houses perhaps more than anywhere else… So then, what do we do with his return to light hearted comedy? Is it still art house fare? I would say it is, because the quality was still top notch and the comedy itself was not like anything you’ll see anywhere else, not because it’s Spanish though but because it is Almodovar.
Yet, this film was just okay for me, nothing more and nothing less. The gay characters seemed to be there just to be there, just for comedy,as did the sex in the film. Not that that is a bad thing but it seemed to be a step down for this director, a small leap backwards, where we are told to laugh at types as opposed to fully formed characters. I suppose I appreciated the journey these characters went on, even though we only get a glimpse of where they started and don’t really like any of them quite enough to care where they end up. This journey was more emotional and personal than physical of course, seeing as their plane has been making circles due to an issue with landing gear. These stakes weren’t high enough for me personally to fully get behind how the characters were behaving on the plane or even to think the humor in that behavior was all that funny… mostly I was just going along for the ride, no pun intended, trying to stop asking myself what the point was but with nothing comical enough for me to ignore the lack of purpose either).
Anyway. I guess I had just gotten used to the Hollywood genres I’ve so far seen Almodovar pay homage to in films like Bad Education (noir), The Skin I Live In (horror), and All About My Mother (classical Hollywood/melodrama). Here, he seemed more concerned with the ensemble-led chaos comedies of the 1960’s maybe crossed with Spanish Telenovelas. For me, it only kind of worked, but it was marginally entertaining still of course. I did love the look of the film, for instance: the colors popped as they often do in his movies, to remind you of the artificiality and play of it all. At the end of the day, it seems like Almodovar had a blast making this film and it really does come across that way (especially in silly moments like the title song-and-dance!) It’s just questionable to me how much of that same fun will translate to the audience. Maybe Almodovar lovers will get it and love it, or maybe it would be even more of a disappointment to them.