Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, is sheer lunacy and exactly what fans of the early 90s BBC series are looking for in a movie update—creator and star Jennifer Saunders and co-star Joanna Lumley returning to their boozy, cynical, iconic glory. And that’s about it. It is a movie comedy anomaly, not simply because it features two middle-aged women killing its nonstop riffs but because it is, unapologetically, made for an audience of women and gay men. All others need not apply, else have their man cards revoked.
The series, which followed the London exploits of former swinging 60s best friends Edina Monsoon (Saunders), a floundering fashion publicist and her best friend, fame whoring Patsy Stone (Lumley), has been turned into a breezy, 90-minute lark of inspired silliness. While it doesn’t quite reach the highs of the series, it provides a lot of laughs at the expense of its aging matrons, falling in and out of hijinks, money and men. Picking up as if the last two decades haven’t passed, the movie is merely a ruse for the very funny pair to step comfortably back into their signature roles and give us all a damned good time.
The plot? Down-on-her-luck “Eddy” is in dire financial straits, about to lose her business, her house and livelihood after a long, dry spell. With a current client portfolio of has-beens like Spice Girl Emma Bunton and 60s icon Lulu, Edina’s solution—to write a tell-all autobiography—is promptly rejected by a snooty publisher: “Your life may be worth living, but it’s not worth reading.”
Making matters worse, a PR rival amusingly played by Celia Imrie (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), is nipping at her heels. But when it turns out Kate Moss needs new representation, Eddy goes all in, showing up at a glitzy bash to the ire of designer Stella McCartney, who declares, “I can’t stand that woman.”
After Eddy accidentally throws Kate into the Thames and she’s presumed drowned, the women high-tail it to the French Riviera looking for Patsy’s long-lost boyfriend and financial lifeline. It’s all about the money, honey, and the politically incorrect boozing, sexing, fantasizing lifestyles of the rich and famous, a milieu the ladies desperately want to join, and do so, in gauzy, cheese-cloth fantasy sequences of high camp.
Exotic outfits and far-off locales are the reason Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie exists, and to drop about ten jokes a minute about age, botox, transgendered exes, gold digging, withered old men in hot tubs, gender switch disguises, flaming gay stylists…you get the point.
Also returning are Eddy’s sensibly put-off daughter Saffron (Julia Sawahla) and perky mother (ninety-year-old June Whitfield, spry as ever), and new characters including Saffron’s daughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) and a fey stylist played by Glee’s Chris Colfer. John Hamm turns up for a brief cameo lamenting his much earlier loss of virginity to Patsy. And then there’s assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks), a eternally annoying character who has never been very funny, spouting babble in her baby doll voice.
There’s something affectionate about this pair of zany, self-deluded best friends, and while both actresses are clearly having a blast, and according to Patsy, who defends their friendship “because it’s bloody good fun!” Saunders stretches herself for one surprisingly touching moment in a pool with an admission that she’s “fat, old, hated and nothing.” But then there’s another joke, just in time to diffuse the pathos.
No one will mistake Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie for high art, but it’s a glossy, campy, ribald piece of screwball comedy and I fell for it.