I was a fan of the British show Absolutely Fabulous when it was on TV in the 1990’s. I looked forward to the short episodes about the zany escapades of a pair of women called Patsy and Edina (aka Eddy). The show explored their friendship and it tried to keep them tame, but it always had an edge and was fairly outrageous, and very, very funny. The two had a way of talking and bickering like only two good friends have, and I loved bringing them into my home every week.
Last night I was invited to a screening of of the new movie and I wondered how it would all translate to the screen. Jennifer Saunders, who penned the film and played Patsy, and Joanna Lumley were there in full force, and I actually had a brief run-in with the two at check-in. I felt like I was in the Ab Fab world for a brief moment; the two women are pretty hilarious in real life and they must have a heck of a time working together. I did follow them to the green room, by the way. It was an accident, but I found rather amusing because it was something their characters would do.
The screening was in Chelsea, and it was dedicated to the gay community, who were there in full force. When Saunders and Lumley introduced the film, they gave a sincere thanks to this community for being a big part of the show’s success, and I found it fitting that the screening was in Chelsea. You could feel the gratefulness throughout the cinema. The two women are powerful and incredibly frank about aging. Lumley told the audience she’s “grateful to be alive” and about making a sequel she said “never say never”.
Naturally, there were a few drag queens in the audience, dressed as Patsy and Eddy, of course. They looked amazing.
The plot is far-fetched but it completely works as this is Ab Fab, after all. Patsy and Eddy are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London’s trendiest hotspots. Saunders managed to bring everyone back for this mini-reunion – her mom, played by June Whitfield, her assistant, Bubble, played by Jane Horrocks, and her daughter, Saffy, played by Julia Sawalha. They’ve added Saffy’s daughter, played by Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, as a 13 year-old, who I love as she somehow grasps the crazy mentality of her grandmother and best friend and has fun hanging out with them, much to the chagrin of her mother. It may help that the two dames let her drive a car during their escape in France and that they are less strict than the buttoned up Saffy, who is also sleeping with the policeman who is chasing her mom!
The plot revolves around the two friends escaping to the French Riviera after Eddy accidentally knocks supermodel Kate Moss into the River Thames at a party while she is trying to become a high power publicist again. Of course, this plot pays off much later in the film, as this is Ab Fab, but it causes havoc and the two are arrested and later run away to France where they are chased and pursued by the police. After all, Moss is a British treasure and being blamed for her death is a disaster for Patsy, and it’s very embarrassing for her family, though her assistant seems to benefit from the hoopla. Well, their plan works when Patsy marries the richest woman in France (pretending to be a man), and the final shot is of the three women jet setting on a yacht, the older woman fully aware of Patsy’s deceit and loving it in typical Ab Fab style.
As per usual with Ab Fab, the show focuses on their friendship, but I also love that it focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter as Saffy must come to terms with her mother’s inability to live a normal life and Edina comes to terms with the fact that once a mother, always a mother and when Saffy comes after her daughter in France (she’s only 13), there is a lot of respect and love. Saffy continues to struggle with her relationship with her mother, yet her love is undying and very supportive. As she’s getting older, her mom is becoming more of a handful, and this is something I definitely relate to in my real life.
So, the question is: is Absolutely Fabulous still relevant? Does it hold up in 2016? I can honestly say that I laughed a lot, granted I’m an Ab Fab fan, which will help any viewer. Being in the presence of its most generous community furthered my appreciation. Understanding the lingo, keeping up with the banter – I think it’s a skill but one that can be developed for Ab Fab newbies. I also enjoyed spotting celebrities throughout the film including Lulu, Kate Moss, Joan Collins, Stella McCartney (who Lumley’s character tells her that she hasn’t seen her dad “since 1969” – oy, the innuendos!) Jerry Hall and Dame Edna. I’m sure there were many more, so keep your eyes open.
And then there’s the champagne. The two ladies still have a penchant for the bubbles.
Because for them, life is a celebration and they teach us how to live in this film.
Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from Fox Searchlight Pictures. All opinions are my own.