By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood March 14, 2013 at 6:29AM
Pedro Almodovar’s new comedy “I’m So Excited” (“Los Amantes Pasajeros”) opened to the highest take of any his films in his native Spain last weekend in its initial release. The film, to be released in the U.S. on June 27 by his usual American distributor Sony Pictures Classics, grossed about $2.6 million on 295 screens for the number two position behind “Oz: The Great and Powerful” (which grossed close to $2.7 million on more than twice as many screens). The per screen average for “Excited” was slightly better than “Oz,” even though this was the widest release ever for an Almodovar film opening in Spain.
The gross topped his previous best, “Volver” ($2.27 million, although with lower ticket prices it had about a third more ticket buyers). That Penelope Cruz-starring film ended up over $13 million locally and $85 million worldwide.
The short (89 minute) film takes place on a troubled cross-Atlantic plane trip where its flamboyant flight crew tries to pacify a group of neurotic passengers as the pilots struggle to bring the craft in for a safe landing. Initial reaction suggests that the film is a throwback to Almodovar’s earlier films (such as “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”) in its tone, with gay and otherwise gender-related humor as well as local satirical references, particularly to Spain's current political and economic crises. Its cast includes a cross-section of Spanish actors who have appeared in his films over the years, from Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas (in small cameos) to Cecilia Roth, who plays one of the business-class passengers.
The strong opening came despite reported mixed reviews from Spanish critics, who have in recent years been less favorable to the director’s work than foreign, particularly American critics. Meantime, the trade press published their reaction from Madrid-based critics, who came in favorable. Jonathan Holland in Variety called the film “hugely entertaining” without breaking new ground, and said it “might find him new fans.”
Screen’s Mark Adams described the film as “camp, kitsch and deliciously entertaining” while finding similarity to the director’s early less dramatic work. Jordan Mintzer of Hollywood Reporter was more mixed, describing it as “rowdy and raunchy” but also saying this “makes for a bumpy flight.” This was in contrast to some of the Spanish reaction (Madrid’s leading paper El Pais and its critic Carlos Boyero described the film as “an embarrassment.”) Coming off a high-level marketing campaign that elevated interest even above usual levels for his work at home, the strong negative reaction might have actually helped to increase awareness. Controversy sells.
Unlike most of Almodovar’s recent films, “I’m So Excited” will not show at this year’s Cannes (past showing usually have followed their Spanish opening), partly because it opens this month in two of Europe’s largest markets, Italy and France.
Among contemporary non-English language European auteurs, Almodovar has been the most consistent it getting high profile American releases (only Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier compare, and their track records have been uneven). "I'm So Excited" remains one of the most highly anticipated new subtitled releases of the year.