The Inbetweeners have done it; Bad Education just did it; and David Brent’s about to do it. For every beloved British TV comedy, a movie now seems inevitable, with small screen gems proving just as popular when they make that leap to the multiplex. Now it’s the turn of Eddy and Patsy, the champagne-fuelled stars of Absolutely Fabulous. The series has retained a fiercely loyal following since its 90s heyday and multiple comebacks in the 2000s, lampooning the excess of media types and followers of fashion. Despite this success, a film has always proved elusive – until now.
Jennifer Saunders returns as Edina Monsoon, a once prominent PR who now finds herself low on cash. In an effort to turn her fortunes around, she crashes an exclusive party organised by her best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) with the intention of bagging Kate Moss as a client. In an unfortunate turn of events, Eddy is accused of the super model’s murder, reviled by the public and wanted by the police. She flees to the French Riviera with Patsy, her granddaughter, their last working credit card, and a dream of escaping their problems in the sun.
Even though it’s only been four years since we last saw the characters, putting these old favourites in a modern setting reminds you just why we loved them so much. Pitting the dishevelled duo up against modern inconveniences makes for some great moments, such as their horrified faces as they board a budget flight (and an encounter with Rebel Wilson’s attendant) or Eddy’s sadness as her stylist Christopher (Glee’s Chris Colfer) reveals she is trending on twitter for all the wrong reasons. Saunders’ eye for celebrity culture is just as sharp, lampooning our love of fame in the outburst of emotion that follows Moss’s disappearance. The high camp and acid tongues may lose newcomers, but this film is about rewarding loyal fans rather than winning over neutrals.
Those same fans will rejoice at the return of almost all the show’s original cast – June Whitfield cuts a rug in Cannes as Mother; Kathy Burke’s foul-mouthed Magda is back; and of course PA extraordinaire Bubble (Jane Horrocks in a variety of crazy frocks) is on hand to manage the madness. Then there are the cameos – lots and lots of cameos. Being fashion focused, it’s no surprise that everyone from Stella McCartney to Jerry Hall get a moment on camera, but the likes of Jon Hamm, Gwendoline Christie, Tinie Tempah, and even an irate Lulu get some face time. It’s probably easier to count the faces you don’t recognise!
However, there’s no doubt who the real stars are. Saunders is hilarious as she blusters and sulks, confronting the idea of getting old as well as the notion that she may have been somewhat neglectful as a mother. At her side, wearing a permanent scowl and a trowel of make-up, the ever-flawless Lumley steals the movie bringing the freewheeling, chain-smoking Ms Stone back to life. Still the devil on Eddy’s shoulder, it’s a performance that never stops being delightful to watch as she stoops to new lows to keep the party going.
While not introducing anything new, Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie takes advantage of the bigger scope in order to create the film fans have been waiting for. A short running time keeps the laughs coming quickly, and the charisma of the leads makes a sequel an interesting possibility. Welcome back, sweetie darlings.