Well, Britain’s bombastic booze-loving fashion figureheads are back for some familiar naughty fun and frolicking for committed AbFab fans to rejoice. So brace yourself “sweetie darlings” as TV-based drunken divas Patsy and Edna make their boisterous and cheeky return to the big screen in the off-kilter and shrewdly amusing Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Clearly, ardent followers of the AbFab dipsy duo will embrace the further hazy-minded exploits of Edna Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Edna Stone (Joanna Lumley) as they are given permission at the box office to create more large scale chaos that laid the feisty foundation for their high-wire antics on the boob tube from the early 1990’s.
The movie adaptation of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie stems from the highly popular British sitcom originally aired on the BBC network. Saunders, the creative mastermind behind the pop cultural AbFab phenomenon that started out as a French & Saunders (as in Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders) sketch soon found its free-spirited footing as a television series that would repeatedly return into the fold for many years until dismissing production in the summer of 2012. Now four years later Saunders and Lumley are back as the alcohol-sipping, flamboyant fashionistas embroiled in yet another scandalous romp.
As loyal and nostalgic AbFab enthusiasts already acknowledge the premise involves the London-based lushes in middle-aged divorcee Edna (“Eddy”) and hanger-on Patsy—both curiously successful in the local fashion industry despite their heavy-handed indulgences. Both rough-around-the-edge women are hardened in drinking, chain-smoking, shopping, clubbing, and man-hunting while trying to desperately cling to their youth-oriented recklessness. Somehow Edna and Patsy manage to juggle their high-powered fashion careers with the extreme cartoonish vices that make them rather…er, colorfully erratic.
Of course the running gag in the off-balance jocularity centered in AbFab’s riotous storm is the sensible yet long-suffering Saffron (Julia Sawalha), Edna’s grounded daughter that had been forced since childhood to keep her protective eye on her self-destructive mother and her smashed cohort Patsy whenever they get into the latest saucy mess that has been initiated by their hilarious hedonism. Often reluctant in totally tolerating Edna’s chaotic whims poor Saffron is forced to be the headstrong “mother figure” to the inebriated woman-child (and her surly boozy buddy Patsy) that is the wacky woman she calls Mom.
No doubt that Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie *will fill the empty void for the demanding comical outlandishness that defines British TV’s beloved foul-mouthed fashion plates. The swinging and sordid sensation that is the tipsy tandem is even more pronounced than ever. Director Mandie Fletcher skillfully fleshes out the over-the-top impishness of the flighty AbFab leading ladies and encourages the fun-loving damage and disarray to unfold as only Saunders’s Edna Monsoon and Lumley’s Patsy Stone can instinctively muster up in inspired insanity. Set against the eye-popping background of exotic locales and basking in splashy and unconventional wardrobes *Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie dutifully reinforces the intoxicating zaniness that had made Edna and Patsy the celebrated cockeyed cougars within the realm of applauded AbFab fandom.
It is still a welcomed revelation to witness the party-hearty maturing misfits revel in animated bad behavior. Indeed, Edna and Patsy are still trying to live the high-life as they frequent various fashion events around town. However, the reality is that Edna is financially strapped as her PR firm has not been profiting richly for her. When your clients only consist of has-been songbirds Lulu and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton then it is certainly time to hit the panic button. Still, this does not stop Edna and Patsy from making their unruly presence known throughout the fashion scene around London.
At one particular fabulous party the mischievousness heightens when Edna accidentally sends supermodel Kate Moss reeling into the Thames. Believed to have perished as the result of this clumsy incident Kate is pronounced dead and Edna is arrested and scrutinized. This, of course, causes a public relations nightmare for Edna, Patsy and Edna’s granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness). The paparazzi (you know…the menacing media hounds known as today’s “villainous vultures”) are increasingly intrusive to the point that Edna and Patsy flee to the South of France to escape the glitzy backlash.
Anyone not acquainted with the hovering lunacy in the AbFab universe will probably see this film as an extended TV episode catering exclusively to the show’s devoted fanatics (they would not necessarily be wrong about this assessment). The on-going jokes, sight gags, chippy dialogue and the assembly line of noted cameos throughout Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie may be perceived as a stretched-out, tired gimmick. Actually, this “reunion” of sorts is a refreshing throwback for the AbFab diehards that viewed the devilishly free-wheeling Edna and Patsy as liberating and truthful broken women in all their comical debauchery.
Thankfully, both Saunders and Lumley have not lost a step in portraying their characters’ juicy narcissism, self-indulgence and sense of entitlement. In fact, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and its television blueprint from yesteryear serve up an unassuming commentary about aging womanhood and its vulnerability in a progressive, young-minded world. In a global society that visually and psychologically recognizes youth culture and external beauty the raucous tendencies of Edna and Patsy are quite understandable as their detestable tendencies are a way of numbing their unacceptable realities—as older women in denial while afraid to let go of a wild youth-oriented existence now realized as a mere reminiscence.
Perhaps Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’s 90-minute running time is too excessive for the random high jinks of Saunders’s and Lumley’s titillating teammates. Plus, the aforementioned cameos that include a who’s who from either side of the pond are gleefully stuffed in the plot to help along the off-the-wall, padded proceedings.
Among the Hollywood and fashion personalities that turn up for igniting this revisit to AbFab craziness include Emmy-winner Jon Hamm, LuLu, Stella McCartney, Chris Colfer, Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie, Jerri Hall, Suki Waterhouse, Barry Humphries, Joan Collins, Mo Gaffney, Dawn French, talk show host Graham Norton, Emma Bunton, Alex Jones—the list of notables seems endless.
At least AbFab sycophants (casual or hardcore) can boast that their cherished drinking damsels Edna Monsoon and Patsy Stone are more naturally engaging and stimulating in the satirical cinematic setting of fashion than say the two mediocre movie outings of Zoolander featuring the forced buffoonery and insufferable mugging of Ben Stiller’s Derek Zoolander.
In hindsight, let’s stick with the entertaining substance abusing sass of Britain’s delightfully decadent fashion floozies.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)
Fox Searchlight Pictures/DJ Films
1 hr. 30 mins.
Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Kate Moss, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, Julia Swalhala, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks, Chris Colfer, Kate Moss, Jon Hamm
Directed by: Mandie Fletcher
MPAA Rating: R
Critic’s rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2016