ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (Fox Searchlight)
Dir. Mandie Fletcher, Script. Jennifer Saunders
Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley
Plot: When Edina (Saunders) is accused of killing Kate Moss, she and her close friend Patsy (Lumley) make a run for it.
Picture the scene: we are in a beautiful, cosy church in the South of France, continuing the trend of BBC TV adaptations making the excuse for a film based on the idea that their characters will escape the British rain, and we are present for a wedding. All the motions are playing out – the bride is walked down the aisle, toward her fake moustachioed, non-husband. Once the two are united at the altar, our priest leans down and turns the CD player off, before proceeding to belt the wedding vows in aggressive French at the groom, who mutters affirmatives under ‘his’ breath, apparently desperate to get on with it. The vows are taken, the matrimony is sealed, and then the CD player is put back on as they exit into the sunlight of the Riviera.
That side-splitting sequence is one of many ridiculous and surreal moments during Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the film every sarcastic, alcoholic British woman has been waiting for. There’s a lot to love if you’re willing to totally disregard the fundamental schisms of what allows a movie to make sense. Absolutely Fabulous, and I’m being fair here considering the two lead characters are almost never seen without some kind of substance, is a movie that has woken up on the yacht of a Russian oligarch (which was apparently the original pitch for this film’s existence) with a pulsating headache and only vague memories of what has occurred, but goes along with it, rather than have the party die.
Unfortunately for Ab Fab, the yacht is 3000 miles away from home, its feeling cold, it reckons that Vladimir Putin is around the corner with some form of genetically enhanced tiger hit squad, and its literally forgotten how to breathe. Because as much as Ab Fab is loveable and enjoyable and most certainly funny, it doesn’t really function as a film, rather as a sketch series or a collection of vignettes. It’s a bit like your trainwreck friend – you can’t count how many awesome moments you’ve had at parties, but when you’re not partying its like they have a permanent hangover. The Jennifer Saunders written screenplay is snappy and ironic when it focuses on its two (tries to find synonym for film’s title so as not to make cheap pun) totally fantastic characters, but it falls when it tries to aggressively confront us with modern things to reflect the fact the TV series was created a while back (Joanna Lumley wears a onesie, which is explained a bit like James Bond product placement is explained); it falls when it attempts to make any logical sense (Edina and Patsy travel down the French coast in the back of a Mercedes-Benz driven by a 13 year old girl adopted from Africa – every element of this scene’s existence is, frankly, wrong as well as illogical), and it falls when it tries to make jokes on more below-the-belt subject matter. The punchlines feel a bit dated as well.
Being ‘dated’ is quite a big concern for Ab Fab, with its characters having been first thrust onto screens about 25 years ago now – but while they’ve started to age a little more prominently, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley have lost nothing of their wit and timing. If you’ve watched even a minute or two of Ab Fab you’ll know that these two have been nailed in this film – the beauty of Saunders and Lumley’s double act is that amidst all the surreal chaos exploding around them, their self-destructive, alcohol-dependent friendship feels totally and utterly genuine. While Jennifer Saunders gets once again to crash her way through Absolutely Fabulous with typical tipsiness, Lumley’s star shines brighter – her every line is delivered perfectly. I would honestly go as far to say that Lumley’s performance is the funniest I’ve seen on screen since, well, the entirety of the Deadpool cast. And, let’s face it, that’s one hell of a movie to be compared to on humour.
But while Deadpool is a fantastic movie, there’s just too much wrong with Ab Fab. Mandie Fletcher’s direction is bland, and the cameo list that must surely stretch into the infinite and the infinite of every parallel universe that could exist is frankly there to distract its audience, and lull us into thinking the movie is funny because Rebel Wilson is on a plane. Also, on the subject of cameos, the bar was pretty low for getting one because RYLAN CLARK-NEAL is Wilson’s partner-in-flight attending. Yes, Rylan: from The X Factor in 2012, the one who burst into tears and squeals when he got put through to the live shows. In a sense, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie seems to be treading the thin line between having a fantastically good time and slipping into an all-encompassing breakdown; while you and your mate had fun at the time, you should probably get them some help.
BEST WATCHED: This movie was made for alcohol. Only watch this over the drink-drive limit.
With this being a TV show adaptation, I honestly wasn’t expecting a long What Next? section, if any section was required. But Jennifer Saunders is also in Sing!, the upcoming film by Minions and The Secret Life Of Pets creators Illumination, along with seemingly every single actor in the world (click on the link above if you want to learn who else has been blackmailed into this).