It’s incredible to think that Absolutely Fabulous, the popular sitcom starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, ran from 1992-2012. Some twenty-five years after the TV pilot, the pair are back, this time on the big screen; older but no wiser. Given the current malaise settling on Britain, the timing of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie could not be better. It’s all raucous, good natured fun and the laughs come thick and fast. Patsy and Edina have been friends most of their lives. Now approaching sixty they attempt to revive their flagging careers and celebrity status by attending all the latest fashion shows and parties.
Eddy still lives with her aging, but well-preserved, mother, played by June Whitfield, and her disapproving, stuffy daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) who has an impressionable daughter of her own, Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), just waiting to be led astray by Patsy and Eddy. It’s 2016, money is a problem and Eddy’s Bollinger racks are bare. Once a self-styled Queen of fashion PR, Eddy is down on her luck – in the world of social media, everyone can now shape their own image. She’s only got Lula and Baby Spice on her books but there’s a rumour that Kate Moss may be in need of new representation. Patsy and Eddy head for the next celebrity party aiming to snare Moss.
Swigging their way through the “Bolly” and chain- smoking, they come a cropper when Eddy accidentally pushes the supermodel off a balcony into the Thames where she disappears from view under the water. Believing that Eddy has killed Moss, the pair flee to Cannes, taking Lola and her credit card with them, and hole up at one of the Riviera’s most exclusive hotels. There Patsy is forced to pose as a gigolo in order to attract the advances and wealth of an ancient crone. They swiftly marry and Eddy and Patsy look set for a life of luxury, lolling by the pool and chatting up the waiters, until the police (and Saffy) catch up with them. There may not be much of a plot, but it’s all good, clean fun with numerous celebrity cameos: Kathy Burke, Christopher Biggins, Lily Cole, Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, Barry Humphries, Stella McCartney and Graham Norton to name but a few.
Director Mandie Fletcher exploits every opportunity for spectacle and visual gags: such as when Patsy wakes up and starts injecting her face with Botox; when she is tasered by a surly airhostess (Rebel Wilson) on a budget airline; when she meets the smouldering Jon Hamm (Mad Men) at a party and a look of horror passes across his face as he recalls losing his virginity to her at the age of fifteen. Lumley dressed as a man, complete with pencil moustache, is also a joy to behold. It’s the stars that make the movie and some may feel that’s something of a cop out but, in these days of austerity, the excesses and absurdity of Absolutely Fabulous feel strangely uplifting, even if it is all over in a flash.