In Season 1’s “Fashion,” Saffy takes a look at Edina’s LaCroix jumper and wonders what type of frock could go with it. “Maybe I could throw up on something for you.”
After seeing Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, filmmakers have already thrown up all over the cult sitcom’s legacy.
Stellar writing, abysmal editing
As a devoted fan of the original series—one of the most iconic and beloved laffers from the 1990s—I’m furious with some specific people after seeing the film adaptation, and none of them are actors or writers. They are the filmmakers who directed, edited and framed this neurotic, disjointed, pathetic excuse for a movie.
Actually, Jennifer Saunders’ writing—reportedly under threat of a deadline, with which many of us writers can empathize—was quite good. She had some quality, AbFab-of-yore situations, zingers and quality banter that caused me to giggle and chortle loudly.
No, the problem with this film wasn’t with the writing, ample cameos or acting. ABTM fails miserably along directorial and editing lines.
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As a viewer I felt like I was watching the inner monologue of a Millennial schoolgirl while she suffered an unmedicated bout with ADHD; someone secretly filmed that same tween quick-skimming through an issue of Cosmo while getting cattle prodded on the ass by a hot poker.
About 5 minutes in, I had a headache so bad I regretted not bringing Motrin with me to the theater.
Dearth of Long-shots
The deepest problem with this film is that you can count the number of long-shots on one hand with fingers to spare. AFTM was a whirling revolving door of a movie with 3-second frames whisking from one random take to the other, devoid of any lucidity—much like one of the ladies’ benders. One of the sweetest, most-watchable scenes was when Patsy and Edina fall in to the pool and Eddie hits her low point; there are no cutaways, and the camera finally trains on the pair doing wistful, comedic acting as they sank deeper in the pool. But by then it was too late.
The original show, to its credit, was almost always a series of long shots with natural character interaction and authentic reflective acting. Watch this classic when Eddie finds out Yasmin LeBon won’t be coming to the fashion show:
The series succeeded along those lines, and the film version failed by the same marker. The Hollywood Reporter picks it up from here:
That making-it-up-as-they-go sloppiness has always been part of the Ab Fab brand’s charm, but over the course of a 91-minute film the frayed seams and safety pin-fastenings are more obvious. It’s telling that three editors — Anthony Boys, Gavin Buckley and Billy Sneddon — are credited here, and considering how often supporting characters in the subplots drop in and out of focus in the last act, one can only imagine what kind of carnage there was in the editing suite. But never mind, darlings, there are gorgeous drag artists in the Vauxhall Tavern weeping as Edina’s daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) sings Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” Jon Hamm confessing he lost his virginity to Patsy and Joan Collins in a series of picture hats. What’s not to love?
A great deal, actually. This film assumed viewers’ attention spans and comprehension capabilities needed a loosely collected series of pre-pubescent brain waves and indulgent scenelets—all of which felt like a skipping vinyl record. Edina’s kitchen looked like the lobby of a sleek new airport, too, not even remotely close to the set of the comfy Holland Park-adjacent home we had come to love.
If Edina is out of money as the plot tells us, how could she possibly afford the inside of a modern airport hangar? Daffy would’ve had a coronary.
Actually, the series was always farcical. But it still hewed to a plot line and a semi-believable series of unfortunate events that befell hard-charging party gals. This movie was not that. Unfortunately I had no mood stabilizers with me, either: “If you’re not into celebrity culture, high fashion, or sensory overload,” the AV Club’s“the whole thing might come off as all style and no substance. Just pop a Xanax and go with it, sweetie darling.”
Even that wouldn’t help, sadly. Joanna Lumley—AbFab’s reliable face-injecting, fag-smoking, Bolly-swilling buffoon—is the anchor that saves AFTM from total uselessness. Thankfully Saunders gave us some good writing, too, right from the heart and soul of the original. But all that is wasted in 90 awful minutes of disjointed, speeding frames and neurotic, pathetic filmmaking.
If we are lucky enough to get a second AbFab movie, a new team is in order, sweetie. I wanna see the figures on that. Writing/casting Grade: B+ / Filmmaking Grade: F ❏
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on retail, marketing, real estate, travel, technology and human interest stories. He is the author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
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