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Buckle up your Louboutins, have the Stella McCartney on standby, prepare the Lacroix – Absolutely Fabulous is back!
Last seen in 2012’s Olympic specials, the drug-addled, Bolli-swigging duo star in their first feature-length film, released last Friday. Manchester’s Odeon held an exclusive premiere event, complete with personal bottles of prosecco, popcorn and drag queens in sky-scraping beehives.
The film is a veritable feast to satiate even the most celeb-obsessed fans. Models, TV stars, designers – they’re all at a glittering fashion show organised by Lumley’s Patsy and Kathy Burke’s delightfully Cockney magazine editor, Magda. And they keep on coming: everyone from model du jour Suki Waterhouse to Jean Paul Gaultier via Jon Hamm, Joan Collins and, of course, Eddie’s client stalwarts Lulu and Emma Bunton.
In any other film this deluge of cameos could feel cheap, but in Ab Fab’s world of PR and celebrity status we feel just as dazed and confused as poor Edina, confined to some throwback pop stars and a ‘boutique vodka’.
Most of the film’s beginning is involved in reacquainting us with the main cast: Edina, Patsy, batty Mother (June Whitfield), fusty Saffy (Julia Sawalha), a now teenage Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) and bonkers couple Bo & Marshall (now involved in a questionable transgender debate).
The film takes some time to get going but we’re too involved in the nostalgia of meeting old friends again to care. When it does, it does in a suitably hilarious way involving a missing Kate Moss and Eddie on a possible manslaughter charge. The duo then hightail it to the French Riviera with aspirations of nabbing a rich, older man.
At its heart, Absolutely Fabulous was always very self-aware. The pathos of aging women trying to reclaim the cool and beauty of their youth is made even more stark when poor Patsy is brushed off by a leathery, elderly bachelor in favour of a nubile young Russian. Under all the fashion and flash, Eddie and Patsy are never very happy.
Jane Horrocks’ Bubble has always been my least favourite character: annoying, one-dimensional, repetitive. But the film gives Horrocks a chance to expand her character’s background (and do a bang-up job as a Shirley Bassey impersonator). Bubble’s revelation that she’s secretly been overpaying herself and bought Pierre Cardin’s aptly named Bubble House is a great opportunity to extend beyond the thick Lancashire accent and stupid clothing choices of the original.
The film’s low point is a badly thought-out love story between Saffy and Nick, played by Robert Webb. It’s never given enough attention and Webb seems there mostly to give Saffy someone to shout at. Similarly, Saffy’s scene at a drag show isn’t fleshed out enough for us to feel the disconnect between mother and daughter. The costumes are fantastic though.
Whilst the Olympic specials failed to capture the biting wit of the originals, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is much, much funnier than expected. Get lost in the fashion, the familiarity and the fabulous and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.