A technical failure on Peninsula Flight 2549 leaves the lives of the people on board in danger. The entire economy class has been knocked out by a drugged cocktail. In business class, the male flight attendants deal with the anxieties of the passengers and their own tangled relationships with the pilots – Joserra (Javier Cámara) is having an affair with the married captain Álex (Antonio de la Torre), while co-pilot Benito (Hugo Silva) is maintaining his straightness just a little too forcefully for the horny Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo). As the plane hangs fatefully in the air, the lives on board become complicated by their loved ones down below, and the close quarters bring drama, sex and flamboyance to the fore.

Pedro Almodóvar’s recent career has seen his status as one of the foremost auteurs cemented by bringing his vibrant, colourful style to a series of dramas more sober than the camp, sexy comedy he’d made his name with in the 1980s. I’m So Excited might be a conscious change of pace, but, despite the obvious gloss of flamboyant low comedy, the director’s nineteenth feature contains the same astute mixture of politics, sex and imagination that has made his films so distinctive.

Much like the first class passengers don’t notice the sleeping masses in the cabin behind them, Almodóvar doesn’t push the allegories here too hard – it’s up to the viewer, or the reviews they read, to read the current Spanish political situation into the layout of the plane, as the richer people drink, drug and screw themselves out of self-awareness. Almodóvar pushes a bit too hard on the transgressive button, shyly consigning gay sex to a mile-high toilet comedy cliché while allowing Bruna (Lola Dueñas) to get her rocks off on top of one of the sleeping men in business class. In a comedy where nearly every character’s self-absorption is only offset by the bright colours of the Peninsula aeroplane, consensual sex might not work within the boundaries of thematic coherence.

Not that I’m So Excited needs to be coherent – and it’s probably the film’s greatest weakness that it isn’t more fanciful. The performance is the eponymous song is a camp delight that really lets Cámara, Arévalo and third attendant Carlos Areces let loose, but it’s one of the few really joyous moments in a comedy higher on the acerbic. Almodóvar regulars Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz cameo in the prelude, as airport workers causing the plane’s later problems, but they’re playing a bright level the script hasn’t even thought of. As the film progresses, it becomes reliant on the actors to provide the pep that the script runs out of – thankfully, with reliable hands like Cecilia Roth in the passenger seat, and the energetic leads running about, the fuel never runs out.

Breezy, brisk and buoyant, I’m So Excited never quite matches its title, but the sparkling verve of the Pointer Sisters’ classic is a hard thing to maintain for an entire film. What Almodóvar gives us instead is a reminder of the messier side of life and the escapist fun. Playing things out almost entirely on another atmospheric level, I’m So Excited is the director’s least realistic film so far – but the drama is just back there, through the curtains, if you care to look. But that might be less fun.

I’m So Excited is in cinemas from Friday 3 May. Featured image courtesy Publicity Media.