I watched Absolutely Fabulous when I was younger, like in my 20s. It was easy to laugh at these older woman (in their 40s) who desperately wanted to stay hip and young by chasing fashion, men, booze, and drugs. It was funny because we knew in our hearts we would always be hip and that soul-crushing age-related patheticness thing would never happen to us.
Edina (Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley, Absolutely Fabulous) aren’t aging nearly as well as they think they are. They’re still powerful, or as powerful as they think they are, but the money is running out. Despite owning PR firm and being in the right circles Edina is lives off her ex-husband’s money complete with maxed-out credit cards. Patsy does the same something in fashion, but doesn’t actually pay for anything herself. Edina’s daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha, Absolutely Fabulous) still resents the hell out of her. Time has literally stood still for these women and it’s a wee bit sad. A new bit is granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, in her film debut), but she’s essentially mocked from the moment she walks on the screen and it sets the tone for the whole movie which feels mean-spirited instead of funny.
You can hear Edina saying. “No darling it’s supposed to be offensive. It’s edgy. They’ll laugh, you’ll see.”
Except we didn’t. A lot of that edgy stuff that was funny in the 1990s just isn’t funny 20 years later. It’s not even a nudge-nudge tee-hee kind of laugh.
I know we’re supposed to be in on the joke, that Eddy and Pats are oblivious, offensive, and it’s okay because they’re in fashion and they have money.
Except they don’t, and it’s, like, the whole plot.
Edina’s PR business isn’t what is once was and while you wouldn’t be able to tell it by looking at how she lives, all of her credit cards are broken. Her ex-husband cuts off allowance to transition into a woman (again, not really funny) but it’s totally okay though because Edina is about to sell a book about her experiences as a PR professional and strong woman.
Except she dictated it to fashion sideways and intellectually absent assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks, Trollied), and most of the pages are just blocks of the word “blah”.
Without money and favors drying up, Patsy lets on that Kate Moss is without a PR person. Together, Edina and Patsy scheme to land her as a client.
Except Edina accidentally knocks her into the Thames and Kate is presumed dead. Everyone now hates Edina (more) and they have to go into hiding. Hilarity ensues as they kidnap Lola (solely for her non-broken credit card) to the South of France where all of the criminals live and they’ll find a rich man to marry and live out their days doing the nothing that has always made the drunk and happy.
Look, it’s not the cray-cray escapades that make this not a really knee-slapper, AbFab viewers are used to that. It’s not the deus ex machina employed to make everything better – it’s a comedy and it doesn’t have to align with reality. This movie does have its absurd moments, but you’re still essentially still watching two women who can’t function independently any better at 60 than they did at 40. They’re still making poor life decisions, hoping luck or Saffron intervene before one of them ends up dead.
I dunno, I just seemed a lot funnier when I was younger.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is just okay. I laughed in parts but was just as uncomfortable as the rest of the audience during some sequences. One instance early on which more or less set the tone for the rest of the film has Lola being prepped for an industry party by gay hairdresser Chris (Chris Colfer, Glee) because we’re supposed to laugh at men (especially gay men) who tell POC women to straighten their hair. I cringed. I really did. The pot-shots Patsy took at Lola’s father (who is presumable African) didn’t come off as funny as intended. That’s Lola’s purpose – get mocked for her natural hair, used for her credit card and then ditched. It’s all okay because she turns up later working for Housekeeping at the hotel in France. And then we don’t see her in the movie anymore.
Edina is the epitome of middle-aged women fixated on their looks but completely unwilling to do anything about it. In a way you feel bad for her because all of this fun stuff is happening and she’s always a block behind. At the same time, she’s where she is because she has the luxury to do nothing and complain. You should never feel pity for the main character in a comedy film, but I pitied her.
We’re supposed to find the Forward Fashion industry as ridiculous as we do baffling. Everyone’s wardrobe, from Bubble’s to Edina’s to Patsy’s had spots of absurdity, yet over the course of 90 minutes, it became normal and passé – which I guess is how fashion works.
There are a lot of celebrity cameos in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, mostly models (Jerry Hall, Poppy Delevingne), other media and presenters (Alesha Dixon, Orla Guerin), celebrities (Dame Edna, Jon Hamm), and UK recording artists (Emma Bunton and Lulu) so if you’re into that sort of thing you’re in for a treat. For the rest of us who prefer to be wowed by clothes that actually fit, it’s just a sea of inebriated faces and fancy people being especially mean to each other.
Hilarious if you’re in high school, but for me, this movie just wasn’t as much fun as I remember the series being. With a screenplay by series creator and writer, Jennifer Saunders, and directed by Mandi Fletcher, this certainly feels like the old Eddy and Pats – and that’s the problem. We’ve already seen this before, and it hasn’t aged well.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is rated R for language (like the hard stuff), sexual references (I never want to see Joanna’s Lumley’s tongue again), rampant drug and alcohol abuse without consequence, and exactly one bare butt.