Directed by Mandie Fletcher | Written by Jennifer Saunders | 91 min | ▲▲▲▲△
It’s been a summer of managed expectations. Most of the blockbusters haven’t delivered on their promise, instead serving up some variation on grim, vacuous, or just-OK entertainment. This has a lot to do with why I so enjoyed the big screen debut of this long running British TV comedy, the ongoing story of two image-obsessed women in the London fashion scene. It supplies bawdy laughs, exactly what you expect.
Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are best friends and have been for years, maybe even going back to when Patsy was a different person—her possible transgender status regularly hinted at, though never confirmed. They both struggle mightily against the ravages of time, and the harder they work at ignoring their age—by smoking, drinking, and partying their asses off—the funnier they get.
Patsy is a fashion magazine editor, and Eddy is in public relations—”PR, darling, PR,” is her battle cry, though her only clients at the moment are singers Lulu and former Spice Girl “Baby” Emma Bunton. Much humour is mined by Eddy forever infuriating her straight-laced daughter, Saffy (Julia Sawalha), while press-ganging her granddaughter, Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), to join her and Pats’ escapades. Keeping track of them is Eddy’s terminally flaky but secretly brilliant assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks, the Little Voice performer also delivering a terrific Shirley Bassey impersonation).
Desperate to cling onto her cool cachet, Eddy angles to represent Kate Moss, which, if you’ve seen the trailer, goes horribly wrong. Eddy and Patsy hide out on the French Riviera, where Patsy gold-digs her way into matrimony with an extraordinarily wealthy individual, leading to a perfectly judged conclusion aping Some Like It Hot.
This is by no means a classic, and if this is your first experience with these ladies you may find yourself a bit lost in the parade of supporting characters and cameos. You do get the sense that the surfeit of bit parts (everyone from Stella McCartney to Jean Paul Gaultier to Gwendoline Christie) are because they’re afraid if they don’t show up to make fun of themselves they’ll be mercilessly lampooned in absentia.
Its ambitions are modest, but AbFab: The Movie is the funniest thing I’ve seen this season. It delivers, which is more than I can say for most of the multiplex stuffers right now.