DIR: Mandie Fletcher • WRI: Jennifer Saunders • PRO: Damian Jones, Jon Plowman • DOP: Chris Goodger • ED: Anthony Boys, Gavin Buckley, Billy Sneddon • MUS: Jake Monaco • DES: Harry Banks • CAST: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha
If the mark of a good comedy is that you laugh a lot, Ab Fab: The Movie has you covered. Think too much about the rudimentary plot and conventional translation of television show to the big screen (It’s Ab Fab on holiday!) and you’ll probably have a less enjoyable time. Think more about how funny it is to see clueless women complaining about how they’re underappreciated by the fashion world (“I gave celebrities AIDS!”) and you might find yourselves chuckling appreciatively.
Written as always by Jennifer Saunders and directed by series regular Mandie Fletcher, Edina “Eddy” Monsoon (Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are up to their regular tricks, trying their best to stay ahead in PR while keeping their alcohol levels well above the limit. This time they’re, well, still lying about their ages and doing so while figuring out how modern technology functions. Indeed, one of the pleasant aspects of the film is that a lot of the twitter and tinder gags actually work; and in a particularly inspired moment Edina’s failure to turn off the loudspeaker on her phone ultimately leads to her downfall when she unwittingly reveals a trade secret. Thus the lovely ladies prove that they are still more than capable of failing to emerge into adulthood well into the twenty-first century.
With news that Kate Moss is looking for new representation, Eddy springs into action and ends up accidentally knocking her into the Thames at a gala party. When Moss fails to resurface, Eddy and her family – mother (June Whitfield), her daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha, as usual the voice of reason) and granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) – find themselves at the centre of a media storm. Looking to lie low while her face is plastered all over the news, Eddy and Patsy decide to head to the south of France. As always, the fashion industry is depicted as being bizarre and enigmatic. Indeed, in the brief moments before familiar faces appear one would be forgiven for thinking they had stepped into a showing of Nicholas Refn’s much darker look at the world of fashion, Neon Demon. Such a bewildering image is embraced by the long list of celebrities, both veteran Ab Fab players like Lulu and Emma Bunton and new additions (La Roux and Game of Thrones’ Gwendolyn Christie among them), all of whom seem delighted to be a part of the show’s latest incarnation. While some new additions aren’t given the best material to work with – Glee’s Chris Colfer and comedian Rebel Wilson seem out of place somehow – others fit in very well, particularly Robert Webb who, as both Saffy’s new boyfriend and the chief of police overseeing the search for Kate Moss, continually gets his roles confused.
Saunders and Lumley are hysterically funny. While Saunders’ Eddy has the most superficial of existential crises imaginable, detoxing on a diet of chicken wings and practicing her “mindlessness,” Lumley’s Patsy steals the show as a ruthless yet helpless chain-smoker, caught in fugue of complete and total privilege (and booze). After their credit cards have been cancelled, in total and utter confusion she asks if they have any “hand money” to go shopping. In a pleasant and possibly unexpected turn of events, Lumley also looks surprisingly like David Bowie when wearing a fake moustache.
Although the film isn’t completely able to avoid the pitfalls of adaptation, with the last act overstaying its welcome, Ab Fab: The Movie is, for the most part, a thoroughly entertaining showcase of some of Britain’s funniest women. And who knows? Perhaps showing this back-to-back with Neon Demon is the way to go.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is released 8th July 2016