Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,
directed by Mandie Flechter
(DJ Films, 2016)

If you're a fan of the British comedy TV series on which the movie is based, you're quite likely to enjoy this movie-length foray into the kind of drunken exploits and party-life-fueled escapades typical of the show.

Edina Monsoon, a PR agent (series creator, along with comedy partner Dawn French), and her BFF, Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), a magazine exec, are two baby boomers who pursue an endless, champagne-drenched good time. The big-screen version of their antics is consistent with the series.

Now approaching 60 and trying to revive their flagging careers and social profiles, Edina tries to get major star Kate Moss to sign on to her PR agency. In typical fashion, the only thing she manages to accomplish is accidentally pushing Moss off a balcony into the Thames during a major fashion week bash.

When Moss doesn't resurface, Edina and Patsy, now murder suspects, must go on the run to the south of France, in search of a rich man who had proposed to Patsy years ago. With his money they will be able to live incognito in the Cote de Azur for the rest of their lives. Taking Edina's granddaughter Lola (and her credit cards) with them, the pair hole up at one of the Riviera's most exclusive hotels. When the rich man turns out to have a taste for younger flesh, Patsy is forced to pose as a gigolo in order to work her wiles on the world's richest woman, an ancient dowager in a wheelchair. A swift marriage and a run-in with the police follow.

Some knowledge of the show helps. The silly twists of the plot are so nutty they border on magical realism. The lead characters are very over-the-top, completely monomaniacal and fixated on how they are perceived. Saffron (Julia Sawalha), Edina's sensible, plain-jane daughter and nemesis of Patsy, is still forced to be the adult in the relationship. Bubble the secretary (Jane Horrocks) acts in a way that argues convincingly for visitors from outer space walking amongst us, and Mother (June Whitfield) continues to provide her own zany but spot-on observations. It's a type of dry-satire-combined-with-pratfall ridiculousness not often seen in American cinemas outside of Apatow or Feig flicks. But then, the whole concept is supposed to be larger than life, which is why it's loaded down with a mind-numbing amount of celebrity cameos. It's lighthearted, funny and crazy from beginning to end.

Though it's slow in spots and the plot is a bit thin, it's still a great opportunity for fans of the show to revisit the sharp wit and raucous events that were the hallmark of the TV show. Like the show, the movie feels less like guilty fun than a well-earned pleasure.

review by
Mary Harvey

17 September 2016

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