Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
'Sweetie, darling, grab the Bolly! They're back!'
In 1992, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley burst onto the BBC with a fag in one hand and a Stolly-Bolly cocktail in the other, first introducing Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone with one hell of an entrance. In celebration of their return, Rokit looks at the success of the show, its fabulous cast and, of course, our top picks for all those wanting to look absolutely fabulous, darling.
Words by Sophie Soar
The forever drunk, washed up but fun loving best friends are an iconic terrible twosome, created by Jennifer Saunders from a sketch that originated from the French & Saunders show. After running for 12 years, the series ended in 2004, providing us with sporadic glimpses of Eddy and Patsy's scandalous lifestyles in anniversary celebrations. Fortunately for us, the end to our torment is nigh after tantalising rumours, leaked images and eventually a trailer revealed to us the answer to our prayers - Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie emerging onto the big screen on July 1st 2016.
A Risk Worth Taking
Initially, the creators of Ab Fab believed the show to be something of a gamble considering the explicit piss take of those working in PR and fashion during the nineties. The pair represents an outrageous PR manager and magazine editor, with ridiculous lifestyles and the wackiest of wardrobes to match. Add Saffron, a disproving daughter and practically a mother to her own, a splash of Bubble, the otherworldly PA, and stir in a couple of ex-husbands to make a recipe for disaster and endless material for immediate comic success.
Hedonism and Hilarity
Saunders believes the show's success is found in the wit of the characters' lifestyles and careers, saying 'combine [Fashion PR] with bad parenting, cruelty, alcohol and fags, and you've got a sitcom!' Quickly, the TV show gained a large following and immense success becoming British comedy's biggest export of the nineties. As Saunders explains, it 'embodied the decadent hedonism of the time', with the epitome of a nineties career falling to the character Bubble, whose job is all about the appearance of profession whilst never actually achieving anything.
Although a seemingly over-the-top representation of London-based fashion careers, the greatest comic moments lie in the fantastically accurate representation of the egotistical personalities that TV presenter and comedian Graham Norton claims were 'very very based on reality'. The American actress and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax said of the show's subject matter that it was a 'confusion of spirituality and PR [and] we knew too many people who needed their arses kicked'.
A Hit Success
Whilst some could have taken offense, the show proved an immense success. However there are mixed opinions regarding the origins of the show's appeal. Whilst Lumley believes its success lies predominantly with the skill of its writer and her co-star Jennifer Saunders, journalist and entrepreneur James Brown places a large emphasis on gender representation: 'it is women behaving like spoilt men and I don't think that character had been shown before'.
Inevitably, this translated across continents and the show gained great success in America, Portugal, even inspired a French movie Absolument Fabuleux. The success of the show abroad also resulted in Saunders's cameo role in Friends as the snobby stepmother of Ross's fiancée, Emily. And what's not to love? Even Lumley admits 'sometimes Jennifer and I will watch an episode together just to get it back in our heads. Although of course it's secretly in my head all the time.'
Arguably the first ladettes who drink and smoke as much as they want, their lives may be ridiculous but they stand for female independence and hedonistic success. Might I even suggest they are the nineties equivalent of Thelma and Louise? The amount of fun evidently had whilst filming radiates from every minute of its telly time, as Saunders recalls: 'I hardly remember any of it - probably because we were drunk most of the time!'
Comedian Alan Davies aptly points out 'the characters of Patsy and Edwina were two of the best creations of their time', but what was it about these two that created such an enchanting, spellbinding performance?
Edina 'Eddy' Monsoon
As Saunders explains, Ab Fab works 'against the whole PC culture that had grown up and, being women, it had more of an impact. They're supposed to be bad people.' In spite of their unstoppable troublemaking, they are heroines we can't help but love as they ruthlessly walk over people whilst stumbling through life. Saunders describes Edina as 'neurotic and self obsessed' but she is full of the greatest of facial expressions and hilarious one liners.
In keeping with the content of Ab Fab, the process of the programme's creation was just as unorthodox as the lifestyles of Eddy and Patsy. Saunders began writing the TV series in the early nineties but only ever handed in one completed script for the cast: the very first one. For the remainder of the five series and subsequent specials, the script would be written the night before filming. In spite of the fast turnaround, Lumley speaks with the highest regard for Saunders's writing, enthusiastically insisting 'it was beautifully written and very, very funny'.
The beehived, leggy, chain-smoking fashion magazine editor Patsy Stone makes up the other half of the dangerous duo. The creation of such a character came about from a piece of advice from Ruby Wax, Ab Fab actress and script editor, who told Lumley to 'play the sad end of your career'; advice Lumley evidently absorbed and still performs to perfection. Wax has since referred to Patsy as 'the ying to the yang of Jennifer', perfectly epitomising the two's electric dynamic on screen.
Lumley has often spoken about her role as Patsy Stone, an iconic character representation on screen, explaining 'you can't be vain as an actor. In Ab Fab, we were made up as old women with bald wigs and jowly necks, and we looked fantastic.'
Fantastic they did look, with wardrobes oozing vibrancy and fun in every episode, from enormous shoulder pads, chunky jewellery, latex, leather and endless animal print. In 2012, the same year as the sitcom's 20th anniversary, Patsy's wardrobe was auctioned to raise money for The Prince's Trust; the collection raised over £15,000.
Just as Patsy and Eddy bounce off one another on the show, Saunders and Lumley's relationship emanates a private intimacy and great friendship after years of working with one another. The duo have continued to work together since the series ended in 2004, such as the 20th anniversary special, presentation of Best Brand Award to Stella McCartney at the British Fashion Awards whilst in character and now the greatly anticipated film Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
The hell raising pair wreak havoc as they continue to perform their career and societal roles with disastrous consequences. With over 60 celebrity cameo roles including Kate Moss, Lara Stone, Jerry Hall and Joan Collins, we have been counting down the days for Eddy and Patsy to come back on our screens ever since the tantalising teaser image of Kate Moss falling about the Thames with cigarette and champagne glass in hand, true to Ab Fab form.
Get the look
So as we inch closer to July 1st, all we can do is tap our toes and reign in our excitement. Standards are high and anticipation even higher but to borrow the words of Lumley, 'if things are good, it doesn't matter what they are, or where they're about or what they're about, or what they contain. If it's good, it works and that's the truth of it'. After all, how can you fault a show with a fridge that automatically restocks your champagne supply?