I would like to say Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was a gasser. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great lines (mostly written by Jennifer Saunders for Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) but as a ninety-minute film it was as pointless as a Stella McCartney collection. I watched the first three series on Netflix after seeing the movie on a Friday afternoon and think I can identify the fault lines.
Fundamentally, the fashion industry is unrecognisable in 2016 compared to two decades ago when the TV series was first aired. The fabulousness has long gone ever since fashion became ‘the business of’ rather than a pleasure. Global conglomerates control the creatives and treat them like the FTSE 100. Fashion magazines haven’t kept up to speed with communication and fashion editors have long since lost their relevance to Bloggers.
Fashion PRs such as Edina Monsoon could not operate in the business today but they did when I was a fledgeling. My dear friend the late Judy Bennett was one of them. In our pomp we would book suites at Home House (of whom she was a founder member) and spend the night choking back brandies (me) and snorting lines (she) before going to our respective offices in the morning as fresh as a daisy.
Judy matched Eddie fad-for-fad with colour counselling, tarot reading, cupping, meditation, acupuncture, spiritualism, Buddhism for breakfast and Kabbala for cocktails. My other dear friend Mandi Lennard was famed for walking into a party Chanel press-ons flashing and baseball cap as high as John Galliano breathlessly repeating ‘Major! Major! It’s SO Major!’ before disappearing off into the night. Lunches lasted for days and press junkets would have made Ivana Trump feel hard done by.
But that’s all gone now. Editors are accountants and designer brands billion dollar businesses. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be like shooting fish in a barrel if one put Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon at the heart of the fashion industry post-Social Media. But that’s not what Jennifer Saunders gave us. The set-up scene of Hooky-Mooky’s fashion show (surely inspired by Yuki) belonged in 1986 not 2016. Similarly, the clothing was stuck in an early 90s time warp.
Wouldn’t it have been fun to style Eddie in today’s version of kooky mutton gear inspired by Alessandro Michele’s Gucci collections. Patsy would be head-to-toe Pleats Please as is any ancient fashion editor who has been totally eclipsed by Tavvy and Bryan Boy. Sure, there were a couple of Twitter jokes but the movie didn’t even try to engage with the poker-faced, PC industry fashion has become. The fashion industry cameos were particularly parochial and lame. Lily Cole? Has she been down a runway since the year 2000? Alexa Chung? Marks & Spencer anyone?
The only bite was provided by Chris Colfer as a bitchy queen session stylist. He was divine. The infamous set-up of Kate Moss being accidentally pushed into the Thames and drown wasn’t well shot. Nor was Miss Moss particularly well lit now you come to think of it. We discover Eddie in a magnificent new Notting Hill home when we’d rather see her in the house she lived in for the TV series. If she was failing in business (as her true life contemporaries in fashion PR are), she wouldn’t be living in an oligarch’s pad with a swimming pool.
Sending Patsy and Eddie on the run to the South of France in search of one of Patsy’s old beaux was a duff idea. Absolutely Fabulous did leave London on many occasions but its heart lies in the Big Smoke. Prat falls, yes. Malapropisms, absolutely. Physical comedy, bring it on. But a car chase in a fishmonger’s van through the streets of Cannes was pointless as were the scenes in the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc with the Iris Apfel lookalike. Or was it Iris Apfel? Hard to tell with all the celebrity cameos.
A word on the celebrity cameos. They will not translate internationally. Jeanette Cranky! Judith Chalmers! Even Dame Edna!!! And what, precisely, was Jean Paul Gaultier doing mud larking on the banks of the Thames? Shoddy plotting there. Julia Sawalha and June Whitfield were thrown away. The heart of Ab Fab on TV was the inter-generational relationships and, of course, the marriage in all but name between Patsy and Edina because men – gay or straight – always let them down.
If you weren’t an Ab Fab fanatic, you would not understand the characters in the movie who satellite around Patsy and Eddie. Not that they were relevant anyway. I adore Celia Imrie but she couldn’t be further from the truth as a contemporary fashion PR. I get Kathy Burke as ‘rough as arseholes’ fash mag slag Magda but the character wasn’t established in the movie so just came across as a drag act in the spirit of Dockyard Doris.
Granted, Jennifer Saunders was way ahead of fashion’s cause-du-Jour transgender and cracked a few winners on the subject in the film but where were the other burning issues of the fashion day such as ugly-pretty, bloggers and celebrity culture infecting fashion. We were given Emma Bunton and Lulu when the audience was expecting cameos of the calibre of Victoria Beckham. And as for Jane Horrocks as Bubble. It worked when she was a young, gormless cutie. As a middle-aged woman, Bubble is an irritant. Sorry to be so negative but I expected so much more.