Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)

101 Absolutely Fabulous

It was Ladies Night and my cinema was packed with women laughing riotously as Absolutely Fabulous (2016) gave them absolute permission to say, think and feel things that respectable girls are never allowed in polite company. Just over a quarter of a century ago, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley fell upon a formula for entertainment that works even better as therapy today. It is pure hag-gag comedy based on two try-hards in constant battle with their demons and is now a global brand with legions of female followers who adore their irreverent slapstick and satire. For many, they are also a freedom trip.

The plotline of the film is implausible and often incoherent, but that’s irrelevant for Ab Fab. In place of a plot there is a premise: supermodel Kate Moss is accidentally bumped off a balcony at a party and Eddy and Patsy flee to the French Riviera to avoid arrest. Along the way the story twists and turns in hilarious ways with a swathe of big name celebrities popping up all over the place. Most of the original ensemble make an appearance, and Patsy’s long-suffering over-responsible daughter continues the parent-child inversion that is the envy of many mothers. Along the way they do endless boozing and drugs (and a swig on a Chanel No 5), worry about being fat, old and loveless as they freeload off anyone foolish enough to let them. With the fridge empty of Bollinger, lack of money continues to drive the pair and, just like Jane Austen characters of a bygone era, using one’s sexuality to find an advantageous marriage is the holy grail. Do not expect subtlety as the jokes are blatantly bawdy and beautifully bitchy.

Like all movies that are spawned from books or television series, the litmus test is would the film work on someone who knew nothing about the Ab Fab legend. For most the answer is no, but that is not the intended audience. The humour is fast-paced and full of brilliant one-liners, while the acting is based on caricature rather than character. The original thirty-minute episodes were great comic relief, but a ninety-minute film struggles and feels like a binge too far. Many audiences will warmly greet Eddy and Patsy like old school friends at a reunion while muttering something under their breath about the ravages of time. For others there is pure nostalgia in watching two outrageous baby boomers who broke all the rules in the 1990s and are still getting away with pure anarchy. Would we could all be like them.

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Director: Mandie Fletcher

Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley

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