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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 22, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 30
Sweetie, darling, new AbFab movie a party for the fans
Arts & Entertainment
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Sweetie, darling, new AbFab movie a party for the fans

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS:
THE MOVIE
Now playing


After accidentally dumping Kate Moss over a ledge and into the Thames, publicist Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) finds herself at the center of an international paparazzi nightmare as people the world over are calling for her head for apparently killing the missing fashion icon and beloved supermodel. With the aid of best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), the pair flee the country for the French Riviera with plans on finding a wealthy husband to bring comfort and stability back to both their lives. In the process, they have also absconded with Edina's 13-year-old granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), a situation the girl's mother Saffy (Julia Sawalha) simply will not stand for.

It's been a long road to the big screen for Edina and Patsy, the two heroines of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie first making their appearance on television way back in 1992 courtesy of the BBC. Since then, the pair have developed a massive following of admirers forcing Saunders and Lumley to come back to these two characters again and again over the past 24 years, and as such it's not too gigantic a surprise they finally find themselves headlining a major motion picture comedy. They've become cultural icons known the world over, so to say there is a passionate throng eager and ready to see what antics they are currently up to would be a gigantic understatement.

Admission: I never really watched the show. I've seen episodes, sure, but I was never so enamored with the half-hour comedy series that I felt the need to follow the adventures of Edina and Patsy with anything close to enthusiasm. I appreciated the show's cultural impact, and I sure as heck was impressed by the talented ladies who made it click (along with Saunders, Lumley and Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and June Whitfield were also series regulars who appeared in the majority of episodes), I was just never as captivated by the duo's antics as everyone else seemed to be, and so not too surprisingly I oftentimes wondered what all the fuss was about.

With that in mind, it's pretty safe to say Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was not made for me. The film does not broaden the audience playing pretty much directly to the television show's core group of fans. Still, there are plenty of laughs to be found, and Lumley, at a fearless and electrically energetic 70 years of age, is positively brilliant as Patsy, blurring the gender line in such a way that is thought-provoking, inspired, imaginative and, truth be told, sometimes even a little bit offensive. There is magic to be found in her interactions with Saunders, the pair's shtick as vibrantly uncouth as it has ever been, and at a brisk 90 minutes I cannot say this theatrical variation on their ongoing story ever bored me, not for a single, solitary second.

Everyone's back, including Horrocks as Edina's oddly devoted assistant Bubble and a sublime Whitfield as her whip-smart mother. There are also a number of cameo appearances, most notably Jon Hamm as an object of affection for Patsy, Gwendoline Christie, Barry Humphries, Chris Colfer, Graham Norton, Lily Cole and Joan Collins. Also appearing are singers Lulu and Emma Bunton, the twosome Edina's last two clients, both of whom starting to wonder if keeping her as their public relations agent is a good idea all things considered.

Saunders' script moves in fits and starts, things slapped together as if they were a series of vignettes, all of them loosely tied together by the thinnest of strings. Considering her series and sketch comedy background, this isn't altogether surprising, and with this being the case the movie does have trouble maintaining narrative cohesion as things progress through their absurdist gradations. Director Mandie Fletcher, herself a veteran of a number of British television hits including 'Blandings,' 'Clatterford' and 'Black Adder,' allows her two stars, as well as the majority of the supporting cast, free rein to do what they would like, her handling of things as unfussy and as lightly unobtrusive as was likely possible.

Personally, I find that I respect Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie more than I can actually say I enjoyed the watching of it. This new version is as progressive and as in-your-face as the series itself ever was, and what it has to say about sex, gender, race, family and politics is as uncomfortable and as off-putting as it is provocative and necessary. Saunders and Lumley are still challenging convention, making people stand up and take notice of what is going on and why, and I salute them for that without any reservation whatsoever. I just wish the film itself did more than play so blatantly to the fan base, because had it broadened its appeal and its reach just a little bit more, it's quite possible we could have had something amazing here to be talking about.

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A Gentleman's Guide - A killer comedy
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Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF) returns July 28-31 with boundary-crossing new work
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Renaissance Faire will serve Drag and Rocky Horror
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Third Guirgis play this year shows he is a genius, and so is Sound Theatre Company!
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Sweetie, darling, new AbFab movie a party for the fans
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Intense Lights Out a frightfully spooky supernatural thriller
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Beyond shows venerable 50-year-old Star Trek continuing to prosper
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