Film review: ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, from ‘Built For Speed’

The British TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous, which began in 1992 and ran sporadically for the next decade, was beloved for its gleefully irresponsible, selfish and politically incorrect lead characters Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley). As high-flying, perpetually partying career women from the PR and fashion worlds they were a kind of Dorian Grey embodiment of the ridiculous, superficial, celebrity obsessed 90’s, a time when supermodels were better known than Prime Ministers. Now Ab Fab hits the big screen in the unimaginatively titled Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

The transition from TV show to cinema screen is usually a perilous one as the film makers invariably try to make the film bigger and flashier than the TV show and in so doing, lose the essence of the original program. Also, in trying to turn a 30 minute per episode TV show into a 90 minute movie, they usually pad the film out with generic plot devices such as weddings and car chases.  Audiences might have hoped that the makers of a cutting but affectionate fashion/ celebrity industry satire like Ab Fab would have avoided this but no such luck as this clichéd and at best moderately amusing film follows a disturbingly similar path to so many TV shows that have made the leap to the cinema screen.

Here, ageing reprobates Eddie and Patsy are still up to the same old tricks, guzzling vodka, snorting coke, chasing men young enough to be their grandsons and driving Eddie’s nerdy daughter Saffy (Julia Sawahla) up the wall. When Eddie’s indulgent lifestyle sends her into a financial tail spin, she decides she needs a big celebrity client to help replenish her chardonnay budget. While stalking potential client Kate Moss, Eddie’s desperate and drunken antics seemingly cause the super models’ death, leaving Eddie and Patsy as fugitives who flee to, where else but the South of France.

This film attempts to weld the TV show’s brand of ‘women behaving badly’ humour to an over-the-top, Zoolander-style parody of the fashion world. Eddie and Patsy’s insouciant hijinks are occasionally funny – particularly in those scenes where Joanna Lumley completely disregards social niceties and cultural advancements of the last 40 years – but it’s a hit and miss affair. This film is funnier and more coherent than the awful Zoolander no.2 but that’s not saying much.

The more amusing moments simply aren’t enough to sustain an entire film and too often it lapses into flailing farce and cliché. The film is also too reliant on celebrity cameos and few of these raise even a chuckle; one cameo involving Barry Humphries as a weird ageing playboy is embarrassingly unfunny. The film also requires audiences to have a detailed knowledge of the fashion world as many of the cameos are from designers and models.

Director Mandie Fletcher makes reasonable use of the South of France setting, its decadent glamour providing an appropriate backdrop for Eddie and Patsy’s self-indulgent rampages. More could have been made, however, of Eddie and Patsy relationship with social media as the flaky narcissistic world of Twitter, Facebook and Snap Chat seems a perfect fit with Ab Fab’s celebration of the superficial.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie isn’t one of those Kath and Kim-style hide-under-the-seat embarrassing TV to film adaptations it’s just obvious and underwhelming.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Mandie Fletcher.

Release date: 4th August 2016.

Running time: 91 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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