Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

 

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Undaunted by the trammels of ageing gratefully, Edina and Patsy find themselves on the 

run from the law – and head off for Cannes.

 

Absolujtely Fabulous

Fabulously outrageous: Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley
  

As we know, darling, political correctness has gone mad. While the BBC readies its resurrection of Alf Garnett in a new recording of Till Death Us Do Part, we can make hay with Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone as the outrageous social monsters who refuse to grow old gracefully. While very much at the epicentre of a Brave New World, neither Edina nor Patsy have managed to fully accept their moral responsibilities – or to hold their tongues – in a domain that’s even more recherché than they are.

 

Beloved by a public hungry for more of the same 1992-2004 sitcom, Jennifer Saunders has rustled up a screenplay that pits the anti-heroines into a larger-than-life farce. TV sitcoms inevitably come undone on the big screen (cf. Dad’s Army, Bewitched, For the Love of Ada) because it’s so hard to maintain the comic momentum of a limited concept. The same fate, alas, befalls this adaptation, but because the characters are so strong and the dialogue so good, the film does retain its considerable appeal.

 

After countless years, Jennifer Saunders – as Edina – and Joanna Lumley – as Patsy – have built up a wonderful comic shorthand. And it’s often the unscriptable that works best between them. For instance, when the culturally challenged Edina believes that her own granddaughter comes from the African country of Ebola, Patsy’s continued retort of “Gabon – Gabon – Gabon” merely confuses her. Likewise, when Edina pushes Kate Moss into the Thames in a fit of pique, she cannot fully comprehend the backlash. She complains of being “trollied” on Twitter, while Jane Horrocks, as her assistant Bubble, earns one of the film’s biggest laughs when she dramatically dumps a pile of correspondence at Edina’s feet with the pronouncement, “your death threats, M’Lady.” Meanwhile, Joanna Lumley’s Patsy lives in a world so entrenched in the future that she can no longer summon up the word for ‘cash,’ airily referring to it as “hand money.”

 

Saunders, too, has rallied enormous support from the glittering ranks of the fashion and entertainment industries, most of whom play themselves. And what a lot of good sports they are, too. Lily Cole dreamily announces, “we thought we’d go to Goa for a colonic,” while Jerry Hall sends herself up extravagantly. And the cameos just keep rolling in, more often than not at the expense of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley themselves (Rebel Wilson thinks Patsy is transgender), whose anti-ageing regime is a sight for baggy eyes. While most girlfriends daub on a bit of rouge and lipstick in the mirror, Edina and Patsy prove a little more ruthless with the make-up, Botox needles and enema tube.

 

The story itself, in the latter stages of the film, doesn’t entirely hold up and the dénouement is more than a little limp. Just where you’d need a little narrative collagen, Sweetie.

 

P.S. Film buffs will know, of course, that Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is not the first cinema reinvention of the TV series. The French beat us to it with the 2001 Absolument Fabuleux starring Josiane Balasko and Nathalie Baye.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Kathy Burke, Celia Imrie, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, Robert Webb, Lulu, Kate Moss, Jon Hamm, Emma Bunton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Jerry Hall, Mo Gaffney, Gwendoline Christie, Rebel Wilson, Barry Humphries, Lily Cole, Mark Gatiss, Dawn French, Graham Norton, Marcia Warren, Kirsty Wark, Jeremy Paxman, Wanda Ventham, Christopher Biggins, Joan Collins.

 

Dir Mandie Fletcher, Pro Jon Plowman and Damian Jones, Ex Pro Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Screenplay Jennifer Saunders, Ph Chris Goodger, Pro Des Harry Banks, Ed Anthony Boys, Gavin Buckley and Billy Sneddon, Music Jake Monaco, Costumes Rebecca Hale.

 

Fox Searchlight Pictures/BBC Films-20th Century Fox.

90 mins. UK/USA. 2016. Rel: 1 July 2016. Cert. 15.