A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Jeff Linville lamented the lack of summer blockbusters this year. Jeff should have waited two weeks and he could have seen the blockbuster of all blockbusters. Goodness knows, I waited almost 24 years for it.
I was right there on opening weekend, happy to spend eight dollars for my ticket. And a little less happy to spend $6.50 for a small Icee. No need to wait for a review from my friends as Jeff likes to do. There was no need for a review. The title says it all; this blockbuster is “Absolutely Fabulous.”
Blockbuster is perhaps a strong word to use for a film that only cost $50 million to make, which is peanuts by American summer film standards, but that’s what it felt like. Easy on the special effects and CGI but heavy on the glitz and glamorous locations with cameo appearances by every celebrity in the western world, A list to D.
On the off chance that anyone who doesn’t know about “Absolutely Fabulous” is still reading, I’ll do a quick summary. AbFab, as it’s known to fans, was a British television show that started in 1992 and played on Comedy Central here in the US soon after. We were promised a big screen version almost from the start and at long last, it is here.
Back in the day, AbFab was must-see TV for anybody in the fashion business. The show pulled no punches about the vapid, vacuous, self-absorbed insanity of a life built on appearances and was none too kind to those of us who lived or aspired to those lives, and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Revolving around Edina Monsoon, a daffy PR exec, her BFF Patsy Stone, a fashion editor and former model, and their booze-fueled escapades, each episode was a gloriously hilarious spectacle of pretension filtered through a dense haze of Bollinger champagne which the less-than-dynamic duo tossed back with reckless abandon. It was Lucy and Ethel overdressed and on drugs.
When the TV show began back in 1992, our heroines were already past their sell-by date with Eddy turning 40 in an early episode. Fast forward a quarter century and 60 is the new 40. At this point, Patsy and Eddy are total dinosaurs in a youth-based industry and their resolute refusal to age has petrified into a determination that is as magnificent to behold as it is ludicrous.
And while the rest of us in the intervening years have settled down, or just plain settled, calmed down, grown up, figured out how to have a normal life and gotten on with living it, we see Patsy and Eddy on the silver screen, as decadent and debaucherous as ever, cigarette in one hand, bottle of Bolly in the other, miscellaneous drugs stashed in their hair. Nothing and no one can stop these two from keeping the party going.
Of course, they’re both more ridiculous than fabulous but that has always been their charm. As that charm is perhaps an acquired taste, it’s probably best to watch a few episodes on YouTube before diving into the hour and a half movie. These two characters are unliked and unlikable to everyone except each other. Acclimate yourself with small doses. When you get through an episode and feel more admiration than disgust, you’re ready for the film.
With the longer story arc of a ninety-minute film, there are some surprisingly touching moments. It becomes obvious that this is at its heart, a buddy movie. It’s Butch and Sundance in towering platforms and too many clashing prints. The fashion satire was just a vehicle, albeit a glorious one. This is the story of a friendship that has lasted a lifetime.
There’s a great scene where Eddy tells her granddaughter Lola that husbands come and go and family will let you down. But through it all, Patsy has always been there. Lola asks her grandmother why Patsy stayed and Eddy seems surprised that it isn’t obvious even to a 13-year-old.
“Because it was bloody good fun,” Eddy forcefully and adamantly repeats a couple of times. It’s hard to say if she is trying to convince herself that she hasn’t wasted her life or if she is trying to pass on a piece of wisdom to her granddaughter that Lola will never get from her goody-two-shoes mother.
And I realized at that moment, having fun is vastly underrated as a life goal. It’s usually considered a fringe benefit but what if it was the primary goal? Might be a lot less unhappiness in the world.
It was really kind of touching and gave me the one thing I did not expect from this film, a flash of insight.
It seems to me that everybody has at least one friend who is completely unacceptable in every way. A friend who is vilified and despised by your family, your other friends and everyone around you.
And whether that friend is uncouth or unkempt, bawdy, rowdy, irreverent, inebriated, or more likely a wicked stew of most of the above; this is the friend that is the most work but by far the most fun.
And if you don’t have a friend that fits the profile, take a long, hard look in the mirror, because that friend could very well be you.
No matter what happens in your life, through all the highs and especially through the lows, all you really need is one good friend to be there for you. Even if that friend is a socially unacceptable, reprehensible mess.
Especially if that friend is a socially unacceptable, reprehensible mess.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.