Yes, sweetie darlings! Absolutely Fabulous has finally made it to the big screen, in what could possibly be the gayest, non-gay, movie ever made.
Affectionately known as Ab Fab, the British TV series is one of the global gay community’s most beloved shows, thanks to its irreverent, decadent and decidedly camp (and usually inappropriate) humour.
Over the years, the champagne-swigging, drug-addled (and possibly transgender) Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) and the perpetually clueless fashion victim Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) somehow wormed their way into our hearts, and true cult status.
“The characters in Ab Fab – and it is a concept that is driven by its characters – are a cartoon version of all of us,” says star and series creator, Saunders. “And I think, at the end of the day, people like to laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. If I had to say why the show was a success, I would say that it was because it was a license not to have to behave.”
The comedy show was originally broadcast between 1992 and 1995 and was revived for two more series and various specials, most recently in 2012.
Now the girls are back – behaving as badly as ever – alongside Julia Sawalha (Saffy), Jane Horrocks (Bubble), June Whitfield (Mother) as well as a host of celebs like Rebel Wilson, Kate Moss, Lulu, Jean Paul Gaultier, Cara Delevingne and Emma Bunton.
While Saunders promised to write a feature film script over four years ago, she kept putting it off. “It was Joanna Lumley who finally forced me into it,” she says, “She simply said ‘You must write it, darling. Otherwise we will all be dead and we won’t have made the film.’”
Saunders admits that it was a daunting challenge. “I felt, what I’d always felt, which is that it wouldn’t be enough to make a film version of the TV show, because that was just an excuse to make jokes for half an hour.
“No, the film had to be something different, something bigger. It had to be relevant. It had to be about Patsy and Eddy now and the reality of how their life would have panned out. And that reality, let’s face it, was always going to be quite sad.”
The plot sees the desperate Eddy vying to clinch supermodel Kate Moss as a client for her failing PR firm. Of course, it all goes terribly wrong and she manages to accidentally shove Kate into the Thames at an exclusive party.
Fearing she’s killed the fashion icon, Eddy and Patsy go on the run to the South of France in search of a great escape and rich husbands. But will Eddy’s past catch up with her? And will the champers finally run dry?
Probably not, as Lumley says: “The truth is that times are quite dark. People are tired and lives can sometimes feel dull. But Patsy and Eddy don’t feel that. They are positive forces, life forces, forces for fun. And they believe that, whatever happens to them, they are going to survive and come out on top.”
The secret to the success of Absolutely Fabulous has been its refusal to play by the rules. “It was the first time, on screen, that women were seen behaving badly,” says Jane Horrocks (Bubble). “When Patsy and Eddy came along, women the world over felt that they had been given permission to get arseholed and have a laugh.”
In fact, from the beginning of its history, Ab Fab also immediately connected with the gay community. Patsy and Eddy were loved for being outrageous, and unapologetically so. Many see the duo rather like two gay best friends making mischief in London’s decadent gay scene. And, in a nod to the LGBT community, one of the key scenes in the film is set in a gay club – packed with 80 drag queens!
“I have never seen anything so ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ in my life,” says producer Jon Plowman..
Casting the drag queens was more a case of opening floodgates. “There was not a single person who turned us down,” notes casting crew member Chloe Partridge. “The response was just incredible; one girl, Miss Ra, cancelled her two week holiday in Thailand because it clashed with filming, others flew in from all over the world.” (Watch the video below.)
And these were not just any old drag queens; these were the crème de la crème of the drag scene – fashion icon Jodie Harsh, Britain’s Got Talent finalist La Voix, as well as several stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Naturally, Saunders and Lumley, who might otherwise have had a rare break from filming, could not resist coming to set that day.
The obvious joy and fun of making Absolutely Fabulous The Movie was also tinged with a touch of melancholy, says producer Damian Jones. “Because,” he explains, “most crucially, there is a strong chance that this will be the Ab Fab finale; that this will be the end of the series as we know it, so everyone has given it their absolute all. It has been a real labour of love.”
So, grab a gaggle of friends (and sneak in a bottle of bolly, sweetie), and make your way to the cinema for a unique big screen experience that’s best enjoyed in a group. It’s one that’s not likely to be repeated.
WIN TICKETS TO AN EXCLUSIVE JOZI SCREENING OF ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS THE MOVIE!
Absolutely Fabulous The Movie opens in cinemas in South Africa on 23 September, but we’re giving away 10 double tickets to an exclusive preview screening on Thursday, 22 September at 19:30 at The Zone in Rosebank.
To score your tickets, e-mail email@example.com with your name, cell phone number. (Two tickets per person, on a first-come, first-served basis.)