Those “Ab Fab” Brits, Edina and Patsy, are back — decades past their TV glory, more decades beyond their expiration dates in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.”
If it can be drunk, smoked or snorted, they consume it. Because even at an age when Keith Richards feels the need to moderate, they’re as decadent as ever, darlings.
Jennifer Saunders’ riotous 1990s TV lampoon of London fashion, overage excess and social climbing in the shallowest end of the pop culture pool still packs a comic sting, largely thanks to the evergreen pairing of Saunders, as flailing and fading fashion publicist Edina Monsoon, and the fearless Joanna Lumley as Patsy, a fashion editor who walked every runway, smoked every cigarette, sucked every lime and shagged every rock star and actor who has crossed her path since the 1960s.
How’s she do it?
“Fetus blood, baby.”
They leap on every fad, try every diet and live their lives in a frantic imitation of those whose world they live in, if only peripherally. And they still call everybody “Sweetie, darling.”
Eddie is down to her last couple of miserable, overage clients, the pop singer Lulu and Spice Girl in dotage (Baby Space) Emma Bunton. The days when “the zeitgeist flowed though me” are over. She is finally, for the first time in her 60some-odder-than-odd years, facing her mortality.
She’s written — Ok, DICTATED to her ditzy assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) — her autobiography. But the one editor who will read it is as blunt as they get.
“You think your life’s interesting. It isn’t. It may be worth living, but not worth reading.”
And she’s not having it, darlings.
If only she can land Kate Moss, whom rumor has it is changing publicists.
If only she can keep her still-around, even-more-aged mother (June Whitfield) out of her hair. If only she can keep her creditors at bay. If only her common-sense divorced daughter (Julia Sawalha, the ultimate “third wheel”) can let down her guard over her own underage but runway-ready daughter (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness).
But Eddie knocks Moss, playing herself, into the Thames at riverside fashion function. All of Britain mourns and Eddie becomes the national pariah. If only she knew what a pariah was.
The jokes are broad and narrow as ever. It’s a very inside-baseball riff on fashion and fashionistas and always has been. As the cameos fly by — Jon Hamm to Sadie Frost, Stella McCartney to Jean-Paul Gaultier — you might miss the funniest and most obvious joke of all.
She’s pinning her comeback on Kate Moss?
Lumley, a not-quite-forgotten star of TV’s “The New Avengers” when the “Ab Fab” TV show turned her loose in the early ’90s, remains the Empress of Excess and would all but own the movie if writer-creator/co-star Saunders wasn’t so damned funny herself.
Patsy, pushing 70, has adapted. She flips through Tinder pages.
“Had him. Had him. Had him.”
She makes Jon Hamm blush, wears smeared lipstick and disheveled haute couture like combat medals. Lumley is, as ever, glorious in the part.
I’m not sure how this will play to anybody who doesn’t know the 1990s TV show, which only aired on cable in the U.S., and “ex Flower Children Behaving Badly” seems tailor made for the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” audience, as raunchy as it sometimes is. The slapstick is silly and slight, the cultural references (Jerry Hall sucking up all the TV interview time on the red carpet) pointedly dated.
But so many throw-away moments zing. Eddie dabbling with getting in shape by riding a Razor scooter to her waiting limo, for instance.
“Exercise, exercise, exercise, DONE” and that’s it.
Fans will find nostalgic fun in Eddie’s endless neediness, daughter Saffron’s pluck (Sawahla gets a show-stopping moment, looking for Mum in a drag queen bar), Patsy’s stoned slurrings and the return of Eddie’s equally-aged nemesis Claudia (Celia Imrie) and her harridan role model, the loud, profane working class high fashion taste-maker and troll before trolls were “in,” Magda (Kathy Burke).
So forget social mores, forget that the world has made “stars” out of a family of surgically enhanced sex tape tarts, and remember Patsy and Eddie’s were there first. In movies, as in new experiences, new fad diets, new things to buy, new spa treatments to indulge, nouevelle cuisines or new banned substances to consume, do what they do.
“Just say YES, darlings.”
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use
Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jon Hamm, Kate Moss, Chris Colfer, Jane Horrocks, Joan Collins, Lulu, Emma Bunton
Credits: Directed by Mandie Fletcher, script by Jennifer Saunders. A release.
Running time: 1:49