ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE
Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are still oozing glitz and glamor, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London's trendiest hot-spots and fashion shows. Blamed for a major incident at an uber fashionable launch party, they become the targets of a media storm and are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. Fleeing penniless to the glamorous playground of the super-rich, the French Riviera, they hatch a plan to make their escape permanent and live the high life forever more!
Review by Louise Keller:
Happy to report that Eddy and Patsy have still got it, and the film is 'bloody good fun', the term used to describe the reason why the latter has stayed latched to Edina all these years. Nearly 25 years after Ab Fab, the TV series became a worldwide hit, the amazing thing is that pretty much nothing has changed for its hedonistic central characters, whose lives are a never-ending self-indulgent party filled with Bollinger, over-the-top clothes and an even more outrageous lifestyle. Jennifer Saunders' script flows effortlessly, along with the one-liners and incongruous, colourful situations. Sit back, take a break from your everyday life and enjoy the sparkling ride: it's a rollercoaster of excess, punctuated by the ridiculous and in the company of celebrity faces.
It's a bit like being in a time warp, as we revisit the self-obsessed world of ditzy publicist Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and her booze-loving bestie Patsy, who keeps it all together with jabs of Botox, swigs of Channel 5 and smears of red lipstick. Eddy's daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) is still ultra conservative and disapproving. Granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) is a new target for corruption.
There is genuine affection for the characters and Eddy is the epitome of the tragic protagonist whose aim in life is to avoid being fat or old, which is clearly unlikely, as she complains that her side profile is seemingly larger than the front. Distinctive black Net A Porter boxes are returned and the cellar (once filled with Bolly) is tragically bare; her hopes for cash to subsidise her lifestyle are dashed when her publisher at 'Random Penguin' declines her manuscript, pointedly saying her life may be worth living, but is not worth reading.
The opening sequence at London Fashion Week, featuring Jerry Hall, Lulu, Stella McCarthy and other fashion glitterati is a hoot, culminating in Kate Moss' untimely plunge into the chilly Thames, when an over zealous Eddy tries to snare her as a PR client. What happens next is beautifully realised as the girls are holed up in Eddy's West London digs, while the paparazzi hovers outside. Then it's time for a hilarious escape to the glamorous South of France for serious gold-digging. The adventures begin in Cannes, continue in Antibes at the fabulous Hotel du Cap and ending in the rustic narrow streets of Villefranche, where the colours of the houses blend with the fashions.
Highlights include Saffy's rendition of At Seventeen in a colourful transvestite bar, Barry Humphries as Patsy's lecherous 'old scrotum', Rebel Wilson as a DNB airhostess ('Do Nothing Bitch') and Jane Horrock's dim blonde assistant Bubbles, who dresses like Ronald McDonald's side-kick. There is also Joan Collins, Kathy Lette and Jon Hamm, about whom Patsy has some intimate revelations. Mandie Fletcher, who directed some of the later TV series does a fine job here, allowing Eddy's wish to 'live the dream' to blossom as reality morphs into fantasy and back again. The music is especially good.
Uplifting in every way, the film is a tonic: every bit as good as a glass of bubbly! Or close!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
They smoke, they drink, they do drugs, they drink some more, they are totally irresponsible and they bludge off others. Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and her best friend Edina (Jennifer Saunders) are awful, tragic human beings ... who just wanna have fun. This, in a nutshell, drove the Ab Fab sitcom to great popular success from the moment it was launched on BBC TV in 1992 until its run ended in 1995. There followed six specials, the last being in 2012 for the London Olympics. Still their fans want more - and here it is.
It's 24 years later and Edina's strait-laced daughter, Saffy (Julia Sawalha) now has her own 13 year old daughter, Lola (Indeyarna Donaldoson-Holness), with big hair, a lovely smile and a black father (who we never meet).
But Edina herself and Patsy still smoke, drink to excess, do drugs and are still irresponsible, thank goodness. And they certainly still want to have fun. The big question was whether the concept would hold up as it made the stretch from the short format of TV sitcom to the 90 minute run time on the cinema screen. It was all up to Jennifer Saunders' writing. (And to some extent to regular Ab Fab director, the laudable Mandie Fletcher.) The other big question is whether those unfamiliar with the sitcom would get it, given the much changed social milieu.
The answer lies in the fact that the whole shebang relies on the two lead characters; this odd couple is a hook for black comedy. They do bad things. Bad things happen to them. Life poops in their soup. Just like any of us, really, and that's why we love to laugh at them, with them, about them and despite them.
Filled with sharp little satirical throw-aways and Edina's signature self loathing (I'm old and still fat and a nothing), the film gives us deep undercurrents but the surface is ever so shiny. The London Fashion Week shindig is all colour and (bizarre) movement, the drag nightclub scene makes the Star Wars intergalactic bar scene look dreary, and the relatively high concept that drives the film's dramatic engine - supermodel Kate Moss tossed into the Thames - are all used to keep the film in perpetual motion.
Kate Moss is one of several celebrities who show up, from Jon Hamm and Barry Humphries (twice, once briefly as Dame Edna) to Lara Stone and Jerry Hall (in a Chanel placement gag).
The storyline is quintessentially Ab Fab, taking these two good friends from the ritzy bits of London to the super ritz of the French Riviera, notably the promenade in Nice, the unspeakably high end Hotel du Cap in Cap d'Antibes, and a chase through the atmospheric lanes of the seaside village of Villefranche.
They are looking for at least one rich husband to fund the dream lifestyle to which they wish to get accustomed. But along the way, there is a moment of genuine heart, to enable us to absolve our guilt at enjoying this shallow, champagne sodden, bling-dangling lifestyle. Do pass that bottle, darling ...
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ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (M)
CAST: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks, Jon Hamm, Rebel Wilson, Julia Sawalha, Celia Imrie, Alexa Chung, Joan Collins, Suki Waterhouse, Barry Humphries, Lily Cole, Sadie Frost
PRODUCER: Damian Jones, Jon Plowman
DIRECTOR: Mandie Fletcher
SCRIPT: Jennifer Saunders
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chris Goodger
EDITOR: Anthony Boys, Gavin Buckley, Billy Sneddon
MUSIC: Jake Monaco
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Harry Banks
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 4, 2016