Friday, 08 July 2016

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Do Eddy and Patsy’s boozefuelled antics translate well to the big screen? Absolutely…

Written by Jason Solomons
Film-Jul17-JasonSolomons-176Blasting in with a deluge of Bolly to blow away the summer clouds, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley give their all to Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and drag it bitching and boozing over the fine line between ropy TV transfer and riotous night out at the cinema.

I should emphasise that the film’s slick publicity machine – a far more effective outfit than anything run by Edina Monsoon – kept it under wraps until the premiere, forcing critics to attend the big night along with Kylie, Kate Moss and oodles of free champagne. The critical world awoke to find it had, in the main, filed positive, peppy reviews, and perhaps is wondering what on earth happened, a feeling of ‘I really didn’t need that last glass of fizz, and who’s this person next to me… Oh God.’

Because Ab Fab is a rickety old vehicle in the worst traditions of the British sitcom-to-big-screen journey. But there are plenty of decent gags and quotable moments that give it a Botox injection to lift it well clear of recent movie-fashion disasters Sex And The City 2 and Zoolander 2.

Perhaps wisely, the film-makers haven’t bothered to deepen the overall sketchiness of the TV show, but they do keep recurring characters such as June Whitfield as Eddy’s mother, a scene-stealing Jane Horrocks as her PA Bubble and Julia Sawalha as disapproving daughter Saffy, now a mother herself, to 13-year-old Lola (newcomer Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness). But it’s the enduring friendship between the two leads that benefits most from the big screen, the 91-minute running time even allowing them to develop moments of tenderness amid the champagne swilling, fag-lighting and pill-popping.

The plot concerns Eddy and Patsy having to flee London after thinking they’ve killed Kate Moss at a fashion launch party, knocking the supermodel into the Thames and provoking a period of national mourning. One of the funniest gags sees serious BBC reporter Orla Guerin delivering the news of her demise from an impromptu riverside shrine consisting of piles of Hunter wellies and bottles of white wine.

Edina and Patsy flit on a budget airline to the south of France (‘I can’t redecorate my way out of this one, sweetie’) and hole up in the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, seeking a rich sugar daddy for the sexually voracious Patsy and to fund their new fugitive lifestyle. Although these women can feel the world they once ruled slipping away, you have to admire the way they clack themselves out of it, and ultimately we cheer their blissful disregard for being out of time. ‘I’m being trollied on Twitter,’ mumbles Edina, proudly.

With its drag queens and farcical police, smut and glamour, there are nods to the Carry Ons, 1960s capers and Some Like It Hot – later, in Cap Ferrat, Lumley dons a David Niven moustache to woo a rich woman. While Edina proves she can walk in outlandish gold stilettos without wobbling, this could be a metaphor for the film itself. But Saunders and Lumley are so game and so honest in their sheer comic gusto that the viewer remains firmly on their side.

As for the cameos? Joan Collins, Rebel Wilson, Jerry Hall, Jon Hamm, Emma ‘Baby Spice’ Bunton, Lulu, Barry Humphries and Jean Paul Gaultier are just a few. Moss herself can’t act but she doesn’t give a monkey’s, and a little bit of that Kate attitude and stardust rubs off on the whole movie, like a stray bit of glitter lingering on a kissed cheek.

Tumbleweed moments are rare, despite the flimsiness of the premise and the woodenness of some contributors. While Lumley is clearly the best actor in sight – her twisted comedy face is a marvel, and I’d love to see Patsy get a Bafta – in the end, the double act carries the day, providing much-needed sunshine and laughter for a bedraggled Britain. Edina and Patsy aren’t just national treasures, darling; they’re movie stars now.

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