Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, 2016.
Directed by Mandie Fletcher.
Starring Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Kate Moss, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Kathy Burke, Celia Imrie, Graham Norton, Jeremy Paxman, Jon Hamm, Janette Tough and Robert Webb.
Two self-indulgent ladies find themselves at the centre of a media storm as one of them, a PR spokesperson, is accused of the murder of a highly sought after model.
Its confession time: this humble reviewer seldom ever watched the original show. Now, before you extradite me for the heretic that I clearly am, I wish to add that the moments I did glimpse did in fact entertain me. So this review will be from a non-fans perspective. Therefore, the burning question is, could a casual film-goer watch and enjoy this film? Yes. But, I must stress, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie also does a great service to the fans of the original.
Once Eddy (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) stumble about a modern fashion show and gate crash the catwalk, still trying in vain to reclaim their youthful exploits, it becomes clear that the duo haven’t lost any of their original bite. Watching Patsy grind up against a youthful, healthy lad exclaiming that she’s twerking (regardless of the lack of bump movement) is a cringe-inducing joy. In fact, it’s moments like this where the film balances contemporary phenomena with its past-their-prime characters that is the most impressive feat; screenwriter Jennifer Saunders still has her finger firmly on the pulse of the modern world.
More than the geriatric moments like the twerk are the little touches; Eddy and Patsy’s narcissism has been catered for them thanks to the socially accepted etiquette of selfie’s, and Patsy’s perversion in going after younger men is now aided by a handy little app called Tinder. Indeed, this self-obsessed duo look to have kept themselves in-line with the trends, and the trends have given them very little reason for them to change their ways.
Eddy’s PR lifestyle, on the other hand, has put major financial woes upon her, and by proxy Patsy, who must come to understand the encroaching irrelevance of celebrity PR (given that social media enables many to self-promote and manage their own image and public persona). What does occur here, as she grapples with any semblance of social status, or buries herself in deeper self-denial, are the markings of an end of an era. This is not to be taken as a downer; in fact, quite the opposite as they use their manipulation and tenacity to get ahead by other means – I shan’t ruin it here, but needless to say Lumley simply steals the show.
The bountiful of celebrity cameos reflect both the characters celebrity obsessed lifestyle as well as the sitcoms cult status. Saunders and director Mandie Fletcher, ensuring the film doesn’t descend into an onslaught of shallow praises, both seem to have cast their celebrities wisely, and is unafraid to have them dislike Eddy and Patsy. Jeremy Paxman provides a sardonic commentary of celebrity and media culture, Garaham Norton recoils by Eddy’s mere presence, and Jon Hamm remembers of a very dark, very morbid, and very damaging chapter in his life with Patsy. You’re unlikely to find a cheap cameo lurking amongst these PR circles.
In spite of such positives there are glaring flaws that squander the film’s full potential. Kate Moss’ wooden performance is off-putting, which is prominent given the theatrical performances from many of the other cast members. This is even more problematic given that it is her death that anchors the narrative.
Outside of the narcissistic duo, and the regular dynamics like their on-going embittered relationship Eddy’s daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha), most of the new additions to the cast aren’t given much characterisation. It’s apparent they’re to service the self-obsessed Eddy and Patsy. So if one is looking for the franchise to broaden its horizons, one will be sorely disappointed, but if one wants to see an Absolutely Fabulous episode go on for 90 minutes, then one will be delighted. Oh, and it’s simply hilarious, darling.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★