Revisiting older series long after their heyday is a risk. The beloved characters may not resonate the same way that they once did. With Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie the characters retain their charm, but are not presented in a way that lets the audience enjoy them in the same way as they once did.
Based on the cult British series, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie seems at first to pick up where it left off. Edina and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) are still partying hard, smoking like chimneys, and doing whatever they can to annoy Edina’s uptight daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha). Through a series of bad circumstances Edina mistakenly pushes Kate Moss off of a balcony and into the River Thames which is certain career suicide for our pair as they both work in the fashion industry.
If the hijinks in the film was limited to that description, it would have been a more successful revisit to the over the top world of Patsy and Edina. To the detriment of the film it instead digs deep into Edina’s recent emotional and money struggles. Her failing Public Relations business has not only lost clients, it has also lost its once golden reputation. Due partially to this, she is broke and cannot afford to keep her and Pasty stocked with champagne and vacations. Though Edina is still the woman we have always known, she has hit a rough patch and the film is asking us to care about her.
Herein lies the major issue with the film: Patsy and Edina are not about emotions. Those who love their long-running television series love the crazy situations they get themselves into, and their even more absurd designs to get out of them. We love seeing Pasty stare down Saffron and tease her. We love seeing how far these two go for a drink and a smoke. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie spends far too much time trying to get the audience to care about these characters we have been gleefully emotionally distant from, and it sacrifices precious screen time in doing so.
Another element that does not quite work here is the celebration of a fashion culture that no longer exists. If we’ve learned anything from Zoolander 2 it is that it is difficult to get audiences to buy-in to the world of supermodels and fashion when the cult of the supermodel no longer exists. Patsy and Edina existed in this world 20 years ago, and it may have been fun to watch them then, but asking the audience to conceit that this world is the same as it was before does not work.
This is not to say that nothing in the film is satisfying to loyal fans. Edina’s sartorially whacky assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) is here, with her unwearable clothing and oddly flighty personality. And the running joke about Patsy not understanding how money works is always welcome too.
Celebrating a culture that is past its prime and being too serious are two grave errors that keep Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie from itself being fabulous. Pasty and Edina have not changed, but the world and their medium have, and they never quite fall into their old rhythm, darling.
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Film Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
- Score - 4/104/10