“Satire is a glass wherein each man sees every face but his own” Jonathan Swift
Having spent the bulk of the 90s laughing at the antics of the Absolutely Fabulous characters alongside my very own Patsy (who I called Rachel) I was chuffed to be invited to see The Absolutely Fabulous Movie recently. Movie buddy and I even managed to snag a lazy boy reclining seat. (That did feel a little middle aged, it must be said.)
I did wonder as a long time viewer first time critic how Jennifer Saunders was going to approach the characters, seeing as it has been 25 years since the TV series was originally created. (25 years really? Yes. I still have it on VHS sweeties).
Saunders actually wrote the movie in a rush in late 2014 because she’d had a bet with Dawn French a year earlier, telling her on a live radio interview if she hadn’t written it by the next New Year’s Eve she’d give her £10,000.
It got to December and in procrastinating Eddy fashion Saunders hadn’t even started. She set to in a frenzy and delivered French 30 pages of a 90 page script two weeks before the deadline, with the remaining 60 pages filled with lines of ‘blah blah blah’, hoping French wouldn’t read to the end. Turns out French did skim through, forcing Saunders to spend her Christmas holiday that year writing in a sweaty panic, all to win a bet.
As any writer knows, this is when the best prose escapes, purely because THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION.
There’s always a worry with fans that rehashing characters from series wildly popular in years gone by will result in tired storylines by jaded actors. But Saunders plays the years well, setting the movie in the now and ageing every character by as many years.
Patsy and Eddy are forced to confront their dwindling futures when a series of catastrophic events (of Eddy’s making) sees them fleeing England to live the high life in the French Riviera, with its gorgeous locations. Barry Humphries pops up as a South of France sleazy wealth magnate in this year’s best cameo so far. Chaos ensues.
The costumes are great. Lets face it, the pressure was on here for the wardrobe department. As Costume Designer Rebecca Hale puts it “If the fashion isn’t right, the whole thing topples. We had to make it now. We had to make it cool. We had to make sure that no-one, at any point, could accuse us of being old hat.”
This outfit briefly rocked movie buddy and my worlds. Its by Yasmeen Uddin and its a cartoon drawing of Anna Wintour’s face accessorized with a massive sunglasses necklace, worn by Bubble.
And Vivienne Westwood lent her pieces and created new ones for the film at cost. Well done.
Great moment I wish I’d been on set for: 80 drag queens dressed in their full, fantastical regalia jostling with grey-faced commuters to be at the Vauxhall Tavern for a 7am call time. Of course there are world class drag queens in this movie. Duh!
Memorable movie moment: There are several classics but if I had to choose one … Patsy as a man. Joanna Lumley at 70 years old you still slay us.
Should you see this movie? Yes. Especially if you remember the TV series.
But even if you don’t remember it, go along. Because Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Dawn French, Jane Horrocks & co are comedy legends and deserve our support.
Because she is so great and I can’t bear to talk about Jennifer Saunders without Dawn French, here’s THE Dawn French presenting Jennifer with an award last year.