Edina and Patsy are back! Those larger-than-life, eternally youthful (in their own minds) and glamorous trendsetters are now starring in a wacky big screen adventure.
Since its inception in 1992 the British sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous” has become a worldwide phenomenon – an impressive accomplishment for a series, which has produced a mere 39 episodes over a 25 year stretch.
Ab Fab, as devotees call it, follows the madcap adventures of Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders), a boozy, drug addicted PR agent who chases after bizarre fads in a desperate, delusional attempt to stay "young" and "hip." Edina gets plenty of enabling from Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), a magazine editor who's substance abuse is far worse than Edina's. The ladies crash every celebrity gathering they can, often stumbling around in a bubbly, champagne induced haze, oblivious to the contemptible stares which follow in their wake.
The result is some of the edgiest and most screamingly funny humor ever produced by our friends across the pond.
"These are people who have been friends since they began," said Saunders during a conference call in which she and Lumley were promoting “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” which opens in cinemas on July 22. "Edina thinks she's a fashion PR guru. Patsy works as an editor on a fashion magazine. They're inseparable friends, and they walk in chaos."
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"A chaos of drink and cigarettes and champagne," added Lumley.
Saunders noted that updating the characters for the new film was an easy task.
"We just get older," she said. "Edina gets older and fatter, and actually Patsy doesn't change at all. She's just sort of embalmed and remains exactly the same."
In the film, the ladies are on the run — Edina has been accused of murdering supermodel Kate Moss, who appears as herself. Our hapless heroines take off for the South of France, where they hope to elude the law. This leads to more mishaps and wild celebrity encounters – more than two dozen famous names from the worlds of film and fashion appear in the movie, some as themselves, others as deliriously over-the-top adversaries to "the girls."
Famous faces on display include Kim Kardashian, Dame Joan Collins, Glee's Chris Colfer, Graham Norton, and Mad Men's Jon Hamm, who has a priceless reaction to former fling Patsy: "Oh God, I can't believe you're still alive!"
Comic highlights from “Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie” include a hilarious turn by Barry Humphries, best known as Dame Edna Everage. Humphries plays a man this time out – he offers one of the film's more unforgettable moments as a chubby, sleazy pornographer with a creepy grin. More laughs abound when Patsy appears in male drag so she can marry the world's richest woman.
"Patsy's been a man before," recalls Lumley. "We had a flashback to the 60s where she had a mustache and was dressed in a Sgt. Pepper coat like a Beatle. This time she didn't bother to go the whole hog and take the hormones and have something stitched on. This time she just glued a mustache on and put her hair back and thought she could probably get away with it. After all, she's only trying to attract a 90 year old person who can't see!"
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With the police in hot pursuit (so they think) the film also offers a few humorous action scenes.
"We insisted on doing our own stunts," said Lumley. "Obviously its a reach from a car travelling at almost three miles an hour to take a cigarette off a completely supine man. It was a bit challenging, but I managed it."
"I'd never been on a scooter before, and they wouldn't let me wear a helmet," added Saunders. "I was very, very brave. It's also the most exercise I've ever done."
Saunders admitted that precautions were taken when writing the film's screenplay, due to today's climate of political correctness. "Because people are much more ready to be offended these days," she noted. "If you write a movie, you have a raft of lawyers telling you who you can offend, and who you can't offend, and who's going to sue you and who won't. So it was quite an issue, I have to say."
But it works. Edina and Patsy push the boundaries of good taste as few people can, but it's all in good fun humor. After twenty-five years of playing these characters off and on, Saunders and Lumley have developed a comfortable rapport with each other and slip into their signature roles with ease. Ab Fab devotees will be pleased to see other familiar faces in the film: Julia Sawalha is particularly amusing as Edina's jaded daughter Saffron – she gets a scene stealing moment in the spotlight when she leads a sing-along of the famed Janis Ian tune At Seventeen in a gay bar filled with adoring drag queens.
If only life were as fabulous as this.