“Absolutely Fabulous” is a beloved British comedy that ran on the BBC between 1992 and 1996, and was resurrected in 2012 for three special episodes during the London Olympics. The show’s 39 episodes have found new audiences on Hulu and Netflix.
Featuring the adventures of PR agent Edina Monsoon (one of the all-time great character names) and her sidekick, drug and alcohol abusing promiscuous magazine editor Patsy Stone, the show gave us women behaving badly long before “Bridesmaids.”
Jennifer Saunders has said that Stone’s character was modeled after Ivana Trump and she still looks like the drunken doppelganger of the presidential nominee’s ex-wife, with elegant suits and signature updo. Edina is obsessed with being young and on trend, with designer clothes that are always a smidge off and a few sizes too small.
The film version of “Absolutely Fabulous” comes at an opportune time for U.K. fans, when the post-Brexit vote and subsequent political upheaval has the gobsmacked nation in need of some cheer.
Anyone who partied like Edwina and Patsy in the ’90s is most likely in no condition today to do so – or even to remember it. But the girls are frozen in time – vapid, self-involved, politically incorrect, and spend most of their time in an altered state. Patsy in particular will drink or snort anything… even Chanel No. 5 is not safe when she is parched. Edwina is a horrible mom to daughter Saffron – the only grown-up in the proceedings, the original Hermione Granger. In short, these ladies make the real housewives seem deep. The “story” finds Patsy and Edina down on their luck when their funds dry up. Edwina decides she needs some new clients and discovers that Kate Moss is seeking new representation. Things quickly go from bad to worse and our heroines are soon fleeing to the French Riviera
The film skewers celebrity culture, 24/7 news (“Breaking News Before It Happens”), and the fashion world, with models and fashion designers playing themselves. Jon Hamm is delightful as one of Patsy’s early conquests and most of the series cast reprises their roles.
Because this classic Britcom was mostly filmed before a live audience, the shrieks and howls at Patsy and Edina’s killer dialogue and fabulous physical pratfalls were a huge part of the “AbFab” experience. To their credit, Saunders and Lumley are still willing to do anything for a laugh and fans of the show may be so excited to reunite with these characters that they forgive them everything. But sometimes, when you get together with old friends you can’t remember what you ever had in common. Ultimately, much of the film falls as flat as an open bottle of Bolly.
“Absolutely Fabulous” was to the U.K. what “Seinfeld” was to the U.S. in the 1990s, with both shows having secured their place in television history.
Jerry Seinfeld has no interest in making a movie with George, Elaine and Kramer to re-create the past or squeeze one last dollar from the brand. He has moved on and is now talking to comedians in cars getting coffee – and getting an Emmy nomination for it.
Maybe Saunders should do the same with tea.
Title: “Absolutely Fabulous”
Starring: Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Running time: xxx
Rated: R for XXX
The lowdown: Return of the popular 1990’s BBC comedy featuring the adventures of high-living Edina and Patsy.