Absolutely, Fabulously Catty

Outrageous British TV comedy comes to the big screen

Jul. 22, 2016
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Television shows have often served as fodder for Hollywood producers seeking a storyline and cast of characters on the strength of name recognition. However, it’s not a formula that usually turns into box-office gold. For every Mission: Impossible there are five movies on par with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that arouse neither interest nor enthusiasm.

Even British shows with no more than cult followings in the U.S. have been green lit. The latest, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, picks up the cast of the UK comedy that debuted in 1992. The story concerns a pair of women, Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), leftovers from Swinging ‘60s London who don’t realize the party ended years before. They clop around in heels too high for their swollen ankles, in clothes that might be worn well on skinny models half their age. The client list for their PR firm has dwindled to ‘60s pop star Lulu and the queen mother of Jordan. A groupie who slept with everyone in the day, Patsy still thinks of herself as a vixen and can seldom be separated from a bottle of booze or a cigarette. Edina drapes her crass materialism in a thin, threadbare veil of Eastern religiosity. But she can’t “om” her way out of the trouble she stumbles into.

London Fashion Week is the backdrop as Edina and Patsy elbow their way across the red carpet. Kate Moss is the attraction, and in her rush to gain the supermodel’s ear, Edina accidently pushes her off a ledge into the Thames. With Moss presumed dead, Edina faces manslaughter charges, but worse still is the viral outrage on social media and the television-tabloid sensationalism. With Edina as a pariah, Patsy decides they should flee to the south of France to begin a new life.

“Ab Fab’s” supporting characters are still in place, including Edina’s sensibly shoed daughter Saffron (Julia Sawahlha), who rebelled against mom by becoming reasonable and disapproving, and Edina’s childlike personal assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks). The catty laughter hasn’t abated. Patsy tells Edina’s ex-husband, a slight old man transitioning toward becoming a woman: “At least you’re small, you’ll be able to buy shoes.” Ab Fab: The Movie’s most pointed humor is directed at the public spectacle surrounding contemporary tragedies. The teddy bear shrine to Moss erected by well-wishers at the spot where she plunged into the Thames is all over the TV along with crawlers such as “Friends of Kate Remember” and mournful fans on the street telling reporters, “I’m so confused.” And then there is the brick hurled through Edina’s window with a note attached: “Love, Stella McCartney.”

Fans of the TV show should enjoy Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, which captures the outrageous spirit of the original series. Whether newcomers will understand the humor or find it off-putting remains an open question.

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