This weekend, Fox Searchlight Pictures is set to release Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, in limited release this weekend. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley return as the persistently hung over BFF’s Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. While the biggest obstacle facing this film is attracting an audience of new fans, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie certainly has all the familiar elements that will thrill hardcore fans of the show. Can you name me another film this summer that includes a jacuzzi that’s described as a “smoothie of old sperm”, an elaborate drag show to the song “At Seventeen”, the murder of a supermodel, a gender fluid wedding, and the details of Jon Hamm losing his virginity?
No one will ever say that Absolutely Fabulous is a great film, but it is a smashing good time darling (Edina Voice).
While Absolutely Fabulous the television show had it focuses on more domestic issues, the film has more of an international flair. The film starts off during London’s fashion week during Giles Deacon Runway show. Saunders and Lumley show off some of their slapstick ability as they fight the models to have the best seat during the show. Edina is now 60 years old and is still muddling away as the world’s worst PR agent. She so lacks self-awareness that she writes her memoirs only to be told that her life is worth living but not worth reading. Instead of taking this as a cue to reassess her life choices, Edina decides that she needs to snag the biggest PR client possible to put her in the spotlight once more. Patsy is told that Kate Moss has fired her PR firm and is looking for representation and lets Edina know the good news. The two of them hatch a plan to woo Moss to sign with Monsoon PR but as always something happens when Patsy and Edina are involved. Edina goes to approach Kate at a fancy fashion event but only manages to push her into the River Thames appearing to kill her. Instead of staying in England to face the music, the girls decide to run away from the police or as Patsy calls them “The Pigs” and heads off to the south of France.
One of the highlights of this film was the smart script that Saunders came up with. Saunders managed to develop a narrative with the familiar beats that we’ve grown accustomed to as well as something even more. For example, throughout the film we see Edina grappling with the reality that she’s getting an old and the world is passing her by. Now, no one is saying that she handles this is the most effective manner (remember this is Edina we are talking about), but this shows a level of depth that Fabulous didn’t strive during its initial run on television. This sort of topic would have been taboo for the TV show as the deepest they indeed reached was what type of booze Patsy was going to drink next.
Where this film struggles mightily is the direction of Mandie Fletcher. This movie shows no creativity in its shot selection and what was crazy is that it wasn’t due to the movie lacking elaborate locales. Fletcher has locales ranging from the south of France to the most high-end areas of London. How can you not highlight those areas in your shot selection? The shots are constricted and tight like they’re on a TV set. The lack of creativity in shot selection caused the film to visually bland at times.
Absolutely Fabulous also falls into the same type of trap that the A-Team movie did a few years back. It’s awfully challenging to take a 30-minute show and stretch into a 90-minute film. Audiences know with A-Team that they will be given a task that seems impossible and pulls it off in the end ( while maybe shooting a few bad guys). The same can be said about Absolutely Fabulous. Everyone knows that you will get the drunken exploits of Patsy and Edina and in the end, they will stumble their way to a resolution to whatever problem they are facing. The source material doesn’t lend itself to any expansion.
This film isn’t going to blaze any trails cinematically but does provide enough fun that audiences won’t leave disappointed. Whether it’s enough to motivate groups to go see it this weekend, remains to be seen.