Director: Mandie Fletcher
Writer: Jennifer Saunders (screenplay)
I have always been an admirer of Jennifer Saunders since seeing her for the first time in a Comic Strip Presents piece, and then many things after that. I think her writing and creative work on Absolutely Fabulous is genius. Great writing, so funny, so outrageous at times, Edina ‘Eddie’ Monsoon really was the character we had to get to know if we hadn’t already bumped into her somewhere on some scale in life. For me when Ab Fab came along the situation comedy experience exploded; Edina and her family were really happening and it was great to see some of that punk comic exuberance Jennifer Saunders had always had unleashed.
I watch the series when I feel the need to laugh; now I have Absolutely Fabulous The Movie with the deleted scenes and alternative ending and I am very happy.
I love this smooth ensemble working their magic on the big screen. The shift onto the screen has satisfied my desire to see more than the series could ever afford. Saunders creates a fun story for Eddie, her granddaughter Lola and best friend Patsy to go off and “Have some fun,” as Eddie puts it. Edina starts off perky with a book deal in her sights but she fails to proofread the dictated manuscript before taking a meeting with her would be Publisher and the day goes downhill rapidly.
Patsy stumbles upon some news that may help Edina spruce up her business and makes a call; unfortunately the call comes on speaker phone during a PR Lunch of the Month meeting. Eddie is vulnerable; not as vulnerable as Jon Hamm evidently, who makes an appearance as Claudia Bing’s newest celebrity in her PR stable. Seeing the Mad Men lead crowd surfing a party and coming face to face with Patsy Stone is an awkward moment, horribly funny as the blending of UK and USA television icons can be, in a good way. Australia’s own comic genius Barry Humphries AO CBE makes a big bruise on the film and along with the Kylie Minogue dancefloor version of Wheels On Fire, longtime theme of the show it is nice to see the overall international Australian blend.
Dame Edna stalked her way through Ally McBeal was it? Eddie and Pats managed to rifle their way through some episodes of Roseanne. The Trans Atlantic and Continental connections have been well established in the series over the years; the movie brings the payoff.
I think Saunders has provided a very satisfying personal development for Edina and some moments for us to share with her that are so much more intimate without the confines of a television studio and studio audience.
Where some television doesn’t translate so well into the cinema I think this has done so brilliantly. The tone, the pace, the ensemble feel; even a few cut-away moments that you’d expect to see on the television are beautifully edited in to capture a detail that tickles a smile if not a laugh.
Edina the character I know and love simply glows on the screen; she could sidle up to any one of the First Wives Club and knock them for a six; she opens up as much as ever while those around her are often so closed away. The dreaming moments we see, when she is surrounded by some fantasy are not so farfetched sometimes; she tries, she really does. There are some things Edina does very well, one of them being having fun.
We get a very good serve of Eddie and Pats having a mini-binge at home, we see them out partying, we get some family scenes that include long historical references from the series along with nuanced echoes of some favourite arguments.
There are lots of ‘names’ – actual names, not just the ‘likes of’ and happily from the series’ very heart, the world of fashion. It is the now fashion moment that gets featured rather than musicians or actors or politicians, the film could easily have become a parade of mindless cameos by people which wouldn’t have necessarily hit a mark. There are a lot of cameos in the film but I think they are all either seriously well played piss-takes as with Jerry Hall, or the one “it actor” Hamm, which also works in a necessarily awkward way.
I think this is where the film and Saunders have really excelled, staying true to the oeuvre that has already built the world wide recognition of the brand, staying on-point with the characters and exploring their world.
This is over all a bigger, classier experience on the cinema screen, even sightly awkward depending on whom you saw the film with during its release. I saw it during a matinee performance and there were long silences where I do not think the audience completely understood the references while at other times, often slapstick, they laughed along; lighting a fag after running out of breath jogging for example.
I think some people will inevitably find their way into the original series through the film and they will notice the difference between the two products but the characters all fit their medium well. In the context of studio recorded live comedy in front of an audience the original series is loud and raucous, compared to location shooting and filming sequences the nuances are subtle and asides more realistic, these things all work for me. I think if you compare Ed O’Neills performances between Married with Children and Modern Family you get the difference immediately in tone and delivery; likewise comparing Edina/Saunders and her whole ensemble between the series’ and the film.
When the series became available as scripts in print and on video to take home, I got them and wore them out. Then they became available on DVD so I got the collection. The film is on BluRay and DVD. I have it on BluRay and I have already watched it a few times; each time finding another gem, another moment that is a refresher from the past. It is like that feeling you get when you catch up with someone whom you have known over many years. There they are, in all their current glory. Love them or hate them you recognise them. Well I love Eddie and her crew, I think Saunders and her crew deserve a medal.