Review: 'Absolutely Fabulous' delights in the outrageous

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Pour some Champagne, light a smoke and put on something gorgeous, dahling, because the women of "Absolutely Fabulous" are back.

It's been 24 years since Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley made their debut as hard-partying best friends Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone on the BBC sitcom, and they bring the same outrageous boozy charm to their big-screen adventure, "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie."

They've also brought along some familiar faces, including Eddy's put-upon daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), and long-suffering assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks), as well as a slew of celebrities, models and designers in delightful cameos. Jon Hamm, Rebel Wilson and Chris Colfer play small roles.

Fans of the series will be relieved to see that Eddy (Saunders, who created the show and wrote the film's screenplay) and Patsy (Lumley) haven't matured a bit during their time away from the screen. But no prior knowledge of the characters is needed to appreciate such overblown selfishness and superficiality in a post-Kardashian world.

An opening scene shows Patsy injecting her own face and lips with a syringe as part of her regular get-ready routine.

"You need to be using fetus blood and a little spritz of afterbirth," she advises her friend.

Patsy is a successful magazine editor, while Eddy's career in fashion public relations has stalled. She dreams of representing supermodel Kate Moss — who happens to be a guest at Patsy's London fashion show — but their meeting is disastrous: Eddy accidentally pushes the supermodel into the Thames and becomes a pariah blamed for her death, which is depicted as an international tragedy.

Determined to avoid punishment, Eddy and Patsy flee to the French Riviera, where they try to keep a low profile while maintaining their drug-fueled, consumption-based lifestyle.

Directed by Mandie Fletcher and sumptuously photographed by Chris Goodger, the film languishes in the intoxicating turquoise waters and terraced hills of Cote d'Azur, a bittersweet sight in the aftermath of this month's Bastille Day massacre in Nice.

The settings are fittingly luxe and Eddy and Patsy's adventures have been appropriately amped-up for the big screen — witness a chase scene where they barrel down narrow cobblestone streets in a runaway rickshaw. Saunders and Lumley are every fiber their alter egos.

But this parody of a lavish life of irresponsibility and consumption doesn't mean what it did when "Ab Fab" first hit in the early 1990s. Today, many Kardashians and "Real Housewives" live this parody as reality everyday on TV. Instead of appearing obviously ridiculous, Eddy and Patsy's indulgent lifestyle looks almost aspirational in an atmosphere of endless selfies and instant fame. It's hard to go over the top with what's already over the top.

"All I ever wanted was not to be fat and old," Eddy laments.

Maybe that's all there is to worry about in a world gone mad.

"Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie," a Fox Searchlight release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "language including sexual references, and some drug use." Running time: 90 minutes. Two stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


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