For the past ten years film-makers that have made films about planes crashing have had to walk a fine line between respectful, yet exciting; dramatic, yet thrilling; tense, yet nostalgic etc. The latest film from Almodóvar has decided instead to make a film about a plane crash that revolves around song and dance numbers, excess drug taking, and aeronautical orgies.
The plot of the film is set almost entirely in the business class section of Peninsula flight 2549; a plane that is having to make an emergency landing due to technical difficulties. The all-male, all-gay flight attendants have drugged the female/transsexual stewardesses and all of the economy class fliers in order to keep them calm – meanwhile the business class guests consist of a Mexican businessman with a secret, a fashion designer with a secret, a virginal psychic with a secret, a pair of newlyweds with a secret, a failed actor with a secret, and a conservative banker with a secret. As these characters begin to learn the fate of the plane they all begin to form different factions and temporary relationships until the secrets all come out over a bucket of champagne, tequila and mescaline (leading to some fantastically surreal Almodóvarian naughtiness…)
It will be said by some audiences that the film has a sense of irony around its subject matter relating to current Spanish politics. A country that is in political and financial turmoil with insane youth unemployment and a dangerous swelling of neo-fascists produces a comedy film about a selection of upper-middle class elites with secrets flying aimlessly above the country in search of a place to land. This may well be the case, but the film is mostly focused on larger-than-life characters and melodrama. A more important political reading of the film could be that it is a timely accompaniment to the wave of same-sex marriage legislation being discussed across the western world. The film is unashamedly gay with not a suggestion of homophobia or embarrassment from any of the characters as they all discuss (and act upon) the finer points of a fluid sexuality. Even the plane itself becomes a character in some of the saucier scenes as the camera lingers over spinning turbines and the long erect body of the plane fills the screen after the camera pans away from an ecstatic face mid-pleasure.
The film has got to be one of the most colourful and camp films of 2013 – especially seeing as it is named after the 1982 classic song from The Pointer Sisters (which is used brilliantly) – and it should become an instant camp classic with the right crowd.