The Brits Are Back in Fashion, Baby!

Absolutely Fabulous
(UK, 86 min.)
Dir. Mandie Fletcher, Writ. Jennifer Saunders
Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Chris Colfer, Kate Moss, Lulu, Emma Bunton
Jennifer Saunders as Edina and Joanna Lumley as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Photo by David Appleby. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Absolutely Fabulous will restore your faith in Britain post-Brexit. This zany and irreverently funny Brit pic brings the popular series across the pond and to the big screen for a laugh-a-minute riot. One doesn’t need to be familiar with the episodes of Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), which ran off and on from 1992 to 2012, to enjoy the party. Sin is in as these gaudy, boozy, freewheeling socialite-wannabes put their drinks up and let the good times roll. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is just the ticket for anyone looking to have summer fun in style.

Absolutely Fabulous, or “Ab Fab” as the faithful call it, works just fine as a standalone movie since the script by Saunders checks all the boxes in its opening minutes to give the audience the deets on all the players. Die-hards will probably catch some insides jokes, but even a viewer who hasn’t even heard of Ab Fab before the movie will enjoy the film without missing a beat. (Although a devotee of the series might be able to explain why the unfunny joke of Eddy’s assistant Bubble made it this far.) The film begins with Edina’s boutique public relations firm Monsoon PR on the fritz and while she likes her drinks on the rocks, she longs to be the on the top shelf of the biz. All she has to her portfolio are a boutique vodka, Lulu, and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton—so, really, a minor spirit, a fading star, and some old Spice. Eddy knows that the lavish lifestyle she enjoys with Patsy (champagne in the morning, parties until dawn) is far beyond her means.

Cue magazine maven Patsy, who learns in between Tinder swipes that Kate Moss has left her publicist and is up for grabs. Their plan to nab Kate Moss goes hilariously awry, though, when Eddy accidentally knocks the model off a balcony and into the Thames, committing a crime against fashion and creating an international incident of mass hysteria. Silver lining: bumping-off Kate Moss proves that Monsoon PR makes some killer headlines.

The silliness of the whole killing-Kate-Moss-thing shows how Absolutely Fabulous never takes itself seriously and is all the better for it. As with many TV-to-movie adaptations, this adventure is really just a long-form excuse to let characters be bigger, louder, and more politically incorrect than the constraints of television allow them to be. (It’s like a feature-length version of the Bart Simpson dick joke in The Simpsons Movie.) Cheeky and out-to-lunch as Eddy and Patsy may be, Absolutely Fabulous is, well, absolutely fabulous simply for how brazenly it pushes the envelope as the two-woman hurricane of lipstick and fugly fashion unleashes itself on the world. Imagine ninety-minutes of an older, boozier, crazier Samantha Jones multiplied by two.

Similarly, as with many movies based on TV shows, Ab Fab offers a gaggle of celebrity cameos. Fashion icons like Jerry Hall, Stella McCartney, and Lily Cole help make the film a runway of chic silliness. Lulu and Baby Bunton, meanwhile, are good sports in roles that cash in on their has-been status and, in a way, bring them back in fashion. The costumes by Rebecca Hale are outlandishly decadent, hilariously over-the-top threads worthy of The Devil Wears Prada. Eddy and Patsy have their own unique style and it’s hard not to look at Absolutely Fabulous and admire its eccentric confidence.

Saunders, who might be best known outside the Ab Fab world for voicing Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2, is a lot of fun as Eddy. Eddy’s life is a disaster and she knows it, yet Saunders refuses to let Eddy’s failures dampen the party. This woman knows how to put on a good face to convince the world, let alone herself, that everything is rosy. She is, after all, a publicist, and Saunders relishes the opportunity to create a character who thrives on pleasure and disaster.

If Saunders is a wild party, though, then Lumley is a happy hour that never stops pouring drinks. (Viewers will recall her small role but memorable role as Aunt Emma in The Wolf of Wall Street.) She is outrageously funny as Patsy, an even greater lush and hedonist than Eddy is. Nipped, tucked, and coked out her mind, she’s a testament to science and mixology, a well-balanced cocktail of caustic dry humour and irreverence. She steals the movie with one of the funniest performances of the year, but Absolutely Fabulous depends on the one character’s ability to accessorise and embellish the other. Eddy and Patsy are just as fun a duo as the SATC girls are a quartet. The Brits are back in fashion, baby!

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens in theatres July 22 from Fox Searchlight Pictures.