Film Review: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Ab Fab

Edina and Patsy are back in the long awaited ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ movie, and while the story may be thin on the ground, the jokes aren’t, says Brian Finnegan


TV sitcoms rarely make a successful transition to the cinema, given that a 30-minute format needs to be stretched across 90 minutes, and the amplification of the big screen, which tends to render funny small-screen characters annoying. Most recently British classic Dad’s Army got a cinematic revival, and while it might have hit number one at the box office, but one critic called it “a weary, simpering, catchphrase-ridden, backwards-glancing dollop of monetised nostalgia,” echoing the reception it found from pundits everywhere.

So what of Absolutely Fabulous, another catch-phrase ridden TV show rooted in nostalgia, this time for the excesses of the ’90s? The beloved Patsy and Edina have not been seen on TV since 2012 when they appeared in a special London Olympics episode of the show, and they stumble onto the red carpet of a very different Britain today. Is it a stretch too far?

Well, no it’s not, and that’s mainly down to a screenplay from Jennifer Saunders that constantly keeps everything moving at the pace of an episode, zipping along with cameo after cameo, and one-liner after one-liner. It’s a veritable who’s who of the fashion, film, and TV worlds, and as tight a comedy script as you might hope to get.

Patsy and Eddy are still the wonderfully self-obsessed, name-dropping, social-climbing, drink and drug-addled, designer-fixated, and youth-obsessed pair of reprobates they’ve always been. When we meet them, Eddy is on her uppers, which means Patsy’s on her uppers too. Lulu and Emma ‘Baby Spice’ Bunton are still Eddy’s only clients, a publisher has turned down her memoirs, and while her infamous kitchen staircase has been lengthened to allow for a pool – quelle horreur! – the champagne fridge is empty, and the credit cards are maxed.

A plan is needed and word on the fashion grapevine is that Kate Moss needs new PR representation, so Eddy, Patsy and Lola, Saffy’s now 13-year-old daughter (let’s face it Eddy was never going to let her be called Jane!), conspire to get Kate on Eddy’s books. Accidentally, Eddy kills her instead.

As the world mourns Le Kate, Eddy becomes a social pariah and a fugitive of the law. With the media and police in hot pursuit, and with the help of Lola’s credit card, Patsy and Eddy flee to the South of France, where Patsy might save the financial day by marrying a rich man she shagged back in the day.

If, unlike me, you haven’t mainlined Ab Fab over the years, some of the numerous in-jokes may fly over your head, but that doesn’t mean novices won’t thoroughly enjoy this. The storyline may be thin, and the cameos may be laid on a bit thick, but the whole thing flies along with the greatest of ease, with Saunders generously handing over most of the best one-liners to Lumley, who delivers them with typical non-chalance.

All the old favourites make appearances; Saffy may be still beige and downtrodden, but she’s also single and ready to awkwardly mingle, Bubbles is still Bubbles, and while Mother may need a chair-o-lift for the stairs, she dances and plays tennis in Cannes with the best of them. I don’t have room in this review to name every favourite or every cameo, but like liggers to a free-bar party they just keep on coming.

One a word of warning: if you are struggling with aging and the invisibility getting older confers upon you, this might make you want to book in for a nip/tuck. Patsy and Eddy go to France to bag rich men, but the rich men barely register their existence. Russian tweens are more their thing.

Absolutely Fabulous was always about sending up fashion and media trends, with Edina making mincemeat out of them even as she got everything just that bit wrong. The social media whirl of today gets the same kind of treatment, but there’s a sense of Eddy not being as on top of trends as she once was. After killing Kate, she gets ‘trollied’ on Twitter, rather than trolled.

Ab Fab too was about friendship. Patsy may have been a kind of succubus, constantly relying on Eddy for just about everything, but there was always sense of the shared joy and laughter at the world that true friendship brings. Ab Fab The Movie is no different in this respect. Ultimately it’s about friendship, through artificial highs and vulgar lows. What’s not to love about that?

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is released nationwide on July 1


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