SWEETIE DARLINGS! Can any movie be all bad when it lists Net-a-Porter.com in the credits? Pretty bad, perhaps, but not all.
Doesn’t matter. Two gal pals and I went to see Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie the night it opened in Washington just to watch Patsy drink Chanel No. 5 because they ran out of “Bolly” (Bollinger Champagne) and see fashion victim Eddie upholstered in outfits that give the garment industry a bad name. (Actually, Eddie gives the upholstery industry a black eye as well.)
Even back when the British TV show began in the early 1990s, the two characters were remnants of the substance-fueled 1960s and ’70s fashion and PR scene in London. In the movie, the Ab Fab ladies are still hanging in there—self-delusion is a powerful thing but perhaps not powerful enough to rekindle careers where they seem to be little more than radioactive half-life. Patsy, the former model (played as deliciously self-destructive by Joanna Lumley, once a model in real life as well), clings to life on a fashion magazine. Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) is a fading PR guru constantly chasing the new and trendy, with one client left, the singer Lulu (remember “To Sir With Love”?).
They’re older, to their great dismay, and Patsy’s sexy sneer has morphed into the toothy snarl of a rabid dog. Well, I guess it always looked rather rabid. And Eddie, who never met a pattern or a texture or a clanky bangle she wouldn’t wear, preferably all at once, announces that she’s as fat from side to side as she is front to back. Nonetheless she’s out there in multicolor platform boots. Yes, they’re trendy again in London shops, but you know how they say that if you wore it the first time you probably shouldn’t try it on the second go-round? Go tell that to Eddie. In a brief unselfish moment, Patsy tries to, but then it’s time for another glass of Champagne or line of coke or whatever is fueling these dames.
There are age jokes to catch (pay attention; some of the mumbled dialogue is hard to understand): As the car speeds away, throwing the women back in their seats, we can hear Patsy: “I think I left my pelvic floor back there!” And there are pratfalls and other manic physical comedy, kinda like the Three Stooges but funny.
And there are spots of current fashion: Eddie carries one of those cool $2,500 Anya Hindmarch handbags with the leather stickers on them. (But in true exaggerated Ab Fab fashion, her mindless assistant, Bubble, wears similar sticker-like words on tiny pillows that are attached to her outfits from top to bottom.)
The plot involves the women trying to restart careers that have withered, in large part because the duo have been so self-absorbed and reckless they haven’t noticed that times have changed. Their goal is as it always was: the grand life with more—more money, more shopping, more drinking. The plot accelerates when Eddie seems to knock model Kate Moss into the Thames while trying to sign her as a PR client.
But who cares about the flimsy plot (written by Saunders, half of the longtime British comedy-writing team French & Saunders)? We get to see Moss looking glamorous, Jean Paul Gaultier as a beachcomber, British TV chat-show host Graham Norton and characters from the original BBC series still looking remarkably happy and healthy.
And it’s nice to see that Eddie and Patsy haven’t really killed anyone lately—or each other.
But as we end up on the French Riviera, where the Ab Fabs have gone to taste the high life, a bit of reality unintentionally crosses paths with the general hilarity: In a final over-the-top sequence, Patsy steals a little delivery truck and loses control, sending the vehicle through cafes and markets, scattering tables and people but hurting no one. It was two weeks after the movie’s release in Britain that a much larger truck had a much more deadly impact on that stretch of la belle France.