By David-Elijah Nahmod, August 2016 Issue.
Edina and Patsy are back! The eternally youthful and glamorous trendsetters (in their own minds, anyway) have landed big-screen roles in the most-anticipated movie of the summer.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the modern-day adaptation of the BBC television series “Absolutely Fabulous,” hits theaters July 22.
Since its inception in 1992, Ab Fab has become a worldwide phenomenon – an impressive accomplishment for a series that has produced a mere 39 episodes in nearly a quarter of a century.
Like the show, the new film follows the madcap adventures of Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders), a boozy, drug-addicted public relations 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 fashion magazine editor whose substance abuse is far worse than Edina’s.
Together, the ladies crash every celebrity gathering they can, often stumbling around in a champagne-induced haze, oblivious to the contemptible stares that 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,” Saunders said during a conference call with Echo. “Edina thinks she’s a fashion PR guru. Patsy works as an editor of a fashion magazine. They’re inseparable friends, and they walk in chaos.”
A chaos of “cigarettes and champagne,” Lumley added.
According to Saunders, 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.
Dozens of famous names from the worlds of film and fashion appear in the movie – some as themselves, others as deliriously over-the-top adversaries of the leading ladies.
Viewers can expect cameo appearances by such celebrities as Kim Kardashian, Dame Joan Collins, Chris Colfer of “Glee,” Graham Norton and Jon Hamm, whose reaction to Patsy, his former fling, is “Oh God, I can’t believe you’re still alive!”
Comedic 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,” Lumley recalled. “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!”
With the police in hot pursuit – or so they think – the film also offers a few comical action scenes.
“We insisted on doing our own stunts,” Lumley said. “Obviously it’s a reach from a car traveling 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,” Saunders added. “I was very, very brave. It’s also the most exercise I’ve ever done.”
Because people are “much more ready to be offended” due to today’s climate of political correctness, Saunders admitted that precautions were taken when writing the film’s screenplay,
“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,” she noted. “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 – and it’s all in good humor. After 25 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.
Devotees of the television series will be pleased to see other familiar faces in the film: Julia Sawalha is particularly amusing as Edina’s jaded daughter Saffron who gets a scene-stealing moment 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.
Phoenix Movie Bear Meetup
Join the Phoenix Movie Bears, a LGBT movie social group, for a screening of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie July 30 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. (theater TBD). For more information, visit facebook.com/phoenixmoviebears/events.