As a source of adaptations, sitcoms are rare. They are often too tied to the time they aired and are considered to be fluff. Over the course of Lost in Translation, only two adaptations based on a television comedy have been reviewed, The Naked Gun and The Beverly Hillbillies. The rest of the adaptations, barring the animated series, have a focus on action and drama, from Doctor Who to The Equalizer. Action series and dramas provide more conflict that works on the silver screen. The Naked Gun added bigger budget action sequences to the comedy, taking advantage of the medium.
That’s not to say that a popular series won’t have fans clamouring for a movie, even if the series isn’t known for action, more so if the TV show reaches cult status. Welcome to Absolutely Fabulous, a British series about two women, Eddy and Patsy, who aren’t so much trying to recapture their youth as continue it. AbFab first aired in 1992 on the BBC and was based on a sketch two years prior on French & Saunders, starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, who plays Eddy.
Eddy runs her own public relations firm, representing an eclectic group of clients. Her best friend, Patsy (played by Joanna Lumley), works as a magazine editor and enables much of Eddy’s behavior. Eddy’s daughter, the long suffering Saffron (Julie Sawalha), is the reality anchor Eddy needs. Too bad Saffy is still in high school when the series starts. Saffy does get some support from her grandmother, Eddy’s mother (June Whitfield). Rounding out the core cast is Eddy’s assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks), who tends to be in her own world most of the time, most likely without the chemical aide that Eddy and Pasty prefer.
The core of the series was Eddy and Pasty misbehaving, breaking the taboos on what women were expected to do, and their stubborn refusal to learn a lesson. Patsy is a long-time party girl who lives on air, alcohol, and cigarettes. Eddy does eat, but allows herself to be encouraged by Patsy. Somehow, they get out of their scrapes, but Eddy and Patsy are not role models.
Twenty-five years after the original French & Saunders sketch, Absolutely Fabulous: The Move began filming. The movie opened in the United Kingdom in July 2016 and reunited the core cast. To get the script written, Dawn French made a bet with Jennifer Saunders that a script wouldn’t be ready by the end of 2014. Saunders won the bet.
The movie picks up with Eddy and Patsy attending a fashion show and over-indulging; nothing having changed except them being older. Saffron has married and since divorced, and, with her thirteen year old daughter, Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), is visiting her mother’s oversized home. Saffron is still cynical about her mother and still doesn’t get along with Patsy. Lola is indifferent to the undercurrants happening. Eddy has a problem; her income isn’t matching her outgo. Her ex-husband, Marshall (Christopher Ryan), has decided to transition to being a woman* and needs the money. Eddy is pinning her hopes on selling her memoir, but the meeting at the publisher reveals that the book is filled with “blah blah blah” thanks to Bubble, who was supposed to transpose what Eddy dictated.
Patsy, while assisting with the setup of a fashion show, makes a discovery that could help Eddy. Kate Moss needs a new PR rep. What should be a simple insider secret becomes a well known, thanks to Eddy having trouble with her smartphone. When Kate Moss arrives at the fashion gala, there’s a race between Eddy and rival PR person, Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie), to get to her. The result is Kate being knocked into the Thames, disappearing into the water.
Eddy is blamed for Kate’s death as the world goes into mourning over the loss of the supermodel. Paparazzi camp outside Eddy’s house, hoping to get a photo of the killer. With some help, Eddy and Patsy escape the cameras and start their own investigation into what happened to Kate. They realize that things float, so they find a boat, find Bubble, and go back to the scene of the crime. To trace where Kate’s body went, Eddy and Patsy push Bubble into the Thames, but lose her in the dark.
Now responsible for the apparent deaths of two people, Eddy and Patsy do what they think best – flee the country. Without money, though, they need a way to pay for their flight from justice. Fortunately for them, Lola has a credit card from her father. Eddy and Patsy take Lola with them to Cannes. Once in southern France, Eddy and Patsy work out a way to get the money they need and start looking for one of Patsy’s old flames, Charlie (Barry Humphries).
In London, Saffron discovers that Lola has disappeared. With the help of her new boyfriend, police inspector Nick (Robert Webb), she starts trying to trace where her daughter has gone. Her investigation leads her to a drag queen karaoke night** to find Christopher (Glee‘s Chris Colfer), Eddy’s stylist. Christopher gives up Eddy’s location.
In Cannes, Charlie’s a bust, but Eddy finds a different way to get the money they need. Duchess Lubliana (Marcia Warren), the richest woman in the world, is alone and has bad eyesight. The new plan is put into effect; Patsy, as Pat Stone, marries the Duchess to gain access to her money.
However, the police discover where Eddy and Patsy have escaped to. Because of the enormity of the crime, even the French police are willing to assist their British counterparts, leading to a car chase that ends in Bubble’s pool. Bubble is alive, having floated to France after being pushed into the Thames by Eddy and Patsy, and has been staying in her home. The police and Saffron catch up to Eddy and Patsy. Eddy gives a soulful confession to Saffron. Then Bubble reveals that Kate is still alive.
Watching AbFab: The Movie is like returning to family; a dysfunctional family, but one that is familiar. With Jennifer Saunders writing the script and the return of most of the original cast, the stage is set. With most characters, growth is expected. Edina is not most characters. The entire point of Eddy is that she is stuck in her 20s and refuses to mature while the normal people around her – mostly consisting of her daughter, Saffron – do grow up. The plot is very much something that Eddy and Patsy would get themselves into. Eddy and Patsy still have not learned from their mistakes. Saffron has changed, but dealing with her mother has left her cynical and trying not to make the same mistakes with her own daughter. The movie is more than just an extended episode of AbFab, but doesn’t lose what made the TV series a cult favourite.
* This makes Marshall the second regular character to be transgender. The first is Patsy, who has a bit of jealousy because Marshall will at least find shoes in his size.
** The drag queens in the scene are real and brought their own costumes and make up. One was dressed as Patsy, and had her mannerisms down pat.
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