I was forced to endure the original Absolutely Fabulous TV series as an adolescent, in great part because my late aunt Dawn, who at the time was living with my parents and I, adored it. She saw it not merely as a sitcom, but as her aspiration in life – to be rich without doing any real work or having any real responsibilities, to have access to all the booze and drugs available, to party and hobnob with celebrities and fashion culture, to dress glamorously and get all made up. I didn’t understand it then, but looking back on it now, I feel badly that Dawn took comfort in a show depicting an exaggerated and unattainable lifestyle. To say that the show had little basis in reality would be a massive understatement.
I’m aware that the show has a sizeable cult following. For my part, I never found it particularly funny. When viewed at a distance, it’s founded on a concept that’s actually quite depressing; it’s about two aging, irresponsible, immature fashion-industry women who enable their self-destructive behaviors, mostly hard drinking and drug abuse but also an occasional bout of promiscuity. Creator/writer/star Jennifer Saunders might have had something worthwhile here if it had been developed into a character-driven drama, but instead, it was developed into a comedy with broad slapstick gags.
Its years of on again/off again airing has led to the development and release of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It’s a movie in which the word “fabulous” has no business being included. It’s exhausting and unfunny, a movie so desperate for a laugh that it resorts to co-star Joanna Lumley getting ready in the morning by self-injecting Botox into her face casually, as if it was a daily ritual. It takes the original show’s basic formula – Saunders and Lumley getting into some kind of contrived scrape, the characters speaking in nothing but fashionese clichés that no one outside of the industry is likely to understand – and stretches it out to ninety minutes. A very, very, very long ninety minutes.
This time, the scrape involves Saunders and Lumley’s respective characters, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, desperately trying to avoid bad publicity after supermodel Kate Moss is accidentally pushed into the Thames and presumed dead. Various hijinks ensue when they flee London for Cannes, including: Patsy posing as a man so that she can marry and live off of the world’s wealthiest woman; Edina using her granddaughter in schemes no young grandchild, or any person at all, should ever be a part of; and a very strained run from authorities, which involves a fish market van with a missing wheel.
Despite the fact that the two lead characters are pathetic human beings that represent all that isn’t real, the entire franchise has been the subject of idolatry, specifically with the gay community. The film is at great pains to capitalize on it; aside from wince-inducing stereotypes played by Chris Colfer and Nick Mohammed, there are also cameo appearances by celebrities with gay followings, including Joan Collins, Graham Norton, and Rylan Clark-Neal. Wikipedia tells me that the film also features no less than ninety drag queens, all with cheeky stage names I haven’t bothered nor ever will bother to learn.
The biggest issue with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is that, while it’s based on a series that wasn’t all that humorous to begin with, it’s even less humorous now, especially since both its characters are on the wrong side of fifty-five (Patsy can lie about her age all she wants – she isn’t fooling anyone). How much longer will they continue to act like spoiled brats? Will audiences continue to think their behaviors are funny? Why? If my review hasn’t made it clear, let me plainly state that no, I don’t get it. I never have gotten it. And if this movie is of any indication, I don’t think I ever will get it. Feel free to find a review from someone who does.