REVIEW: ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ perfect cure for Brexit blues

Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie aims to deliver everything fans of the classic ’90s British sitcom adored about the show sans the laugh track. Beloved main and recurring cast members of the program return, older but not the least bit wiser, beset by new problems brought upon by life in the 2010’s in addition to the eternal problems of finding the next party and the next bottle of Bolly.

The writing is sharp, and the actors are on point delivering characters fans should remember. Those coming into the film not having seen the show shouldn’t worry, however. Absolutely Fabulous wastes no time in letting audiences know just who the characters are, their relationships to one another, and how they keep each other float while at the same time driving each other crazy.

What’s it about

For PR maven Edina “Eddy” Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and fashion magazine editor Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), life is very much what it has been for years: a neverending (hopefully) cycle of glitzy parties, bottles of champagne, and hangovers. Their selfish and hedonistic antics continue to drive Edina’s long-suffering daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) to look and sound twice her age, while at the same time driving everyone else they deal with to consistently wonder just what it is they actually do or what they’re good for aside from drinking and ruining social occasions.

But the end may be near, at least for Edina. The money’s running out, her PR client list lacks the starpower it once boasted (at least, in her mind), and, well, age and all that eating and drinking have started to take their toll.

An opportunity to reverse her fortunes presents itself in the chance to sign the most prized PR client in all the British Isles, UK fashion icon Kate Moss (playing herself). But when the recruiting effort goes horribly, hilariously awry, Eddy and Patsy find themselves on the run from the police and worse: the paparazzi.

Fleeing the country with Saffron’s daughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) in tow, the priority for this Dynamic Duo becomes avoiding becoming the Destitute Duo. They need money to keep the party going, and if there’s one thing Eddy and Patsy are good at, it’s finding ways to keep the party going, even when that pesky thing called reality keeps trying to come calling.

Absolutely Fabulous the Movie one-sheet

Writing Top Drawer

The script for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie of course comes from star and series creator Jennifer Saunders. Saunders’ writing effort displays all the wit and bawdy charm that made “Ab Fab” such an instant hit and its characters classics in the Brit TV lore. Fans of the original should be thrilled with the results, at the very least.

Nostalgia and the spectacle of middle-aged women behaving badly alone, however, are not all thatĀ make Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie enjoyable. Saunders has a keen eye for the absurdities of the UK pop culture, fashion, and socialite worlds that Eddy and Patsy hang on to for dear life. One particular running gag about how the nation is thrown into cultural chaos at the possible loss of a pop culture figure revered as a national treasure serves as arguably the best evidence of Saunders’ sense of these things, but there are many others in the film.

Missing the laugh track

There is, however, a downside to the production’s devoted efforts to recreate as much of the show’s magical tone and chemistry as possible.

Yes, many of Saunders’ one-liners and zingers in the script hit home. A few of them, however, fall flat simply because they’re staged as though they’ll be followed immediately by canned laughter.

Veteran TV director Mandie Fletcher (BBC TV’s “Blackadder“), who directed a number of “Ab Fab” episodes herself, alas doesn’t serve this production particularly well in terms of crafting scenes and set pieces that feel cinematic. Despite the production trading in the confines of a sitcom sound stage for lavish, majestic backdrops in London and the French Riviera, the timing and staging in many scenes still feel as though they’re meant for the small screen.

Put another way, the movie looks and feels very much just a long, well-budgeted episode of the series, for better and for worse. If that doesn’t bother you, and it probably won’t if you’re a fan of the show, well that’s fabulous, sweetie darling. Be sure to sneak in a flask of you-know-what into the theater with you to enjoy the proceedings properly.

Worth seeing?

For fans of Eddy and Patsy’ sordid escapades, yes, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is an absolute must-see, bordering on a moral imperative.

For everyone else? Well, if you enjoy comedy from across the pond and/or smart comedy that gleefully turns British pop culture on its ear, then don’t hesitate to dive right in, as there’s lots of fun to be had here.

Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie

Starring Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Chris Colfer, Kate Moss, Lulu, Emma Bunton, Robert Webb, Barry Humphries, and Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness. Directed by Mandie Fletcher.
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.

Felix Albuerne
Felix Albuerne
One-time Blockbuster Video manager, textbook editor, trivia host, and community college English/Humanities teacher. Now a digital media producer, part-time film critic, amateur foodie, semi-retired beer snob, unabashed geek, and still very much a work in progress.