Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie"

Absolutely mediocre.

OK, OK, that was a cheap and easy shot. But it’s still a bullseye.

Full disclosure first: I have only a passing acquaintance with “Absolutely Fabulous,” the popular British TV show about two awful, aging women who never want the party to stop. It ran for two decades, off and on -- though in the British M.O., a “season” of television can mean a handful of episodes.

Still, I think I’ve seen enough to pass judgment that the biggest problem with “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” is the “movie” part.

It is a hoot to watch Jennifer Sanders (who also wrote the screenplay) and Joanna Lumley sink their teeth into parts they’ve honed so well over the years. But there simply isn’t enough material here to sustain a feature-length film, even a shortish one. The film has plenty of laughs, but also plenty of long dead spells.

Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Lumley) are would-be fashionistas who make a living of sorts on the fringes of the fashion industry. Edina does P.R. for a few has-been celebrities, and Patsy is fashion editor for some hoity-toity magazine. But really they live a life of West London luxury by sucking at the teat of ex-husbands and anyone else they can scam.

Things go poorly when Edina is cut off by her ex, followed by an unfortunate event in which she apparently kills supermodel Kate Moss by knocking her off a balcony into the Thames. (Things I did not know, #1: Kate Moss is still a thing?) The women lose their gigs and become international pariahs, fleeing to the south of France to hide out and find a new meal ticket.

In tow is Edina’s granddaughter, Lola (the winsome Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), who provides a sense of adventure – and her father’s credit card. Chasing them is frumpy daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and her erstwhile police detective boyfriend (Colfer). On the edges of the action is Edina’s own mother (June Whitfield) and Bubble (Jane Horrocks), her off-kilter personal assistant, who dresses in inflatable materials and appears to be sniffing the gas inside them, too.

The film features tons of cameos, literally dozens and dozens of celebrities. And by “celebrities,” I mean “people from the fashion world I think I’m supposed to know but have no clue about.” I recognized Jon Hamm and Gwendoline Christie -- “That’s Brienne of Tarth!” someone chirps -- but that’s about it. So if names like Judith Chalmers, Poppy Delevingne and Daisy Lowe ring your bell, have at it.

The best parts are simply the two main characters interacting with each other, calling their counterpart “darling” and engaging in stuff that would be irresponsible for women half their age. Assessing the facial damage after a long night on the scene, Patsy tells Eddy she needs “a little spritz of afterbirth to freshen things up.”

Director Mandie Fletcher is a television veteran, and it shows in the pacing (or lack thereof). Certain characters are cast aside as needed, plotlines are picked up and quickly dropped; in general, it feels like a greatest hits compilation of the TV show. The last act has a decidedly Benny Hill feel to it, with lots of chasing about in weird costumes and oddball modes of transportation.

My advice is to fire up two decades’ worth of “Absolutely Fabulous” on your favorite streaming service if you need a Botox-and-baubles fix.

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