Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

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Director: Mandie Fletcher

Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Swahala

An honest review from a massive fan

You might not think it to look at me but Ab Fab is my life. I’ve been watching Absolutely Fabulous ever since I can remember. In fact I can remember quite vividly being five or six years old and completely howling at all the episodes my Mum used to watch, which is pretty bad parenting to be honest with all the drug taking and general naughtiness in every episode. However I’m so thankful that my mother let me watch it because I think it really shaped my life in terms of comedy. Me and my sister have to watch Absolutely Fabulous in order to get through life. I don’t think there’s any show on TV that feels fresher and more hilarious the more you watch it apart from Ab Fab.

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The film has to be my most anticipated film ever. Here are a few points just to give you an idea of how excited I was for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: I’m traveling Australia at the moment so I stayed up until 3am to watch the Leicester Square premiere on a live stream, I had at least four separate dreams about watching the film (one of them was a dream within a dream), I refreshed the Ab Fab Facebook and Twitter page obsessively every day to get every scrap of news, I watched every single interview with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, I refused to watch the trailer in fear of it spoiling all the best bits and I entered every competition I could find to win tickets to the premiere in Sydney. I also won those tickets and spent about $600 to fly to Sydney in order to attend that premiere.

This is a show which I know every single word to and still laugh every time. This is far more than a show to me, it’s a religion, it’s a drug which I constantly crave. Attending that premiere was one of the greatest nights of my life. The whole experience was completely overwhelming. I’d just been within touching distance of two of my biggest idols in life (Jen and Jo if you hadn’t have guessed) and then the film played. It was all too much to take in. Of course it was a total blast but it went by in a flash! I genuinely thought that it was halfway through but then the credits rolled and I was dumbfounded. I saw the film again a couple of days later just so I could properly assess it.

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Obviously if you’ve read all of that jargon above then you’ll know that this review is going to be horrendously biased. I will say though that if you’ve never seen an episode of Absolutely Fabulous then don’t start with the film because it is made for the fans. Even if you’re a causal fan, the chances are that you won’t like the film. Jennifer definitely wrote this film for the hardcore fans and I take my hat off to her for that. I’m sure that the studio would’ve pressured her to try and make the film accessible for everyone, but she hasn’t done that. It’s a continuation of the series and it’s all the better for it. Ab Fab has always moved forward so why should it stop for newcomers now?

I watched the film in a theatre jam-packed with fans as big as me and there were massive laughs and cheers at almost every minute. I’ve got to be honest and say that I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work as a film. With all the celebrity cameos being announced it looked as though it could slide into the Mrs Brown’s Boys D’movie route. Also Jennifer has never written a film before and film screenplays are very different to the telly. However, I can safely say that Absolutely Fabulous does completely work on the big screen. The cameos aren’t as forced as I had feared, in fact many celebs end up playing actual roles instead of just themselves.

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The film opens in the only way it could with Patsy and Eddy rocking up to a fashion show, getting blathered and stumbling back the next morning to straight-laced Saffy in a state that would make Lindsay Lohan blush. It’s a stellar (or should I say Stella?) opening which basically sums up why we love Ab Fab in five minutes. From then on we’re straight into an onslaught of fan favourite characters including: Mother, Bo, Marshal, Claudia Bing and Lulu all wrapped up in a hysterical, albeit fairly loose, plot about Edina accidentally knocking Kate Moss into the Thames.

It has to be said that Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are absolutely on fire in their roles as the fabulous friends. A lot of reviewers seem shocked that they’re still so good after 25 years but they’ve never really stopped playing these characters. People look at it as a show from the 90’s and whilst the last full series aired in 2003, there have been specials leading all the way up to 2012 so all of the cast involved remain as fresh as ever. Joanna Lumley in particular shines in this film though. She’s 70 years old and still has such impeccable comic timing and chews up every scene she’s in despite not eating since 1973.

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I was surprised at the amount of references and in-jokes included in the film for the fans but all of them were a delight. There are plenty of fresh jokes fired at you as well. The laughs come thick and fast, barely giving you time to breathe for 90 minutes! The film also moves at quite a nice pace in the first half, setting itself up for a proper comic caper but it never quite lives up to that promise. The film’s marketed as “Patsy and Eddy on the run!” But without spoiling anything, this doesn’t really happen. At first I was a little disappointed at the lack of momentum in the second half but on a second viewing I realised that a big chase movie really wouldn’t be in the spirit of Ab Fab. It’s always been more about sitting back with a bottle of bolly and this is what the film sticks to.

It might not be as strong as say, Alpha Papa, in terms of sitcom to movie adaptations but as a comedy it does the most important part perfectly, making us laugh. The effects might be a little shoddy and Mandie Fletcher’s directing cockeyed at times, but the film never fails to deliver laughs. It also doesn’t lose focus too much so there’s always the perfect balance between plot drive and comedy. How wonderful it is too to have a film made by and starring older women! Everyone knows that the film industry is an ageist and sexist one run predominantly by men, so it’s lovely to see a film dominated by talented females doing so well at the box office.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It isn’t going to sweep the oscars and nor is it trying to. Jennifer Saunders has created a consistently hilarious romp for the fans which allows you to switch off and be happy. Most reviewers call the film over-stretched but if anything I found it a little rushed and under developed! There are plenty of plot points and new characters left unexplored to their full potential but hopefully all will be resolved in the inevitable sequel. It’s not the best film ever made but there are lines in this film which I’ll be using for the rest of my life. Just like the TV series, it’s endlessly re-watchable and, as Patsy so perfectly puts it when asked by Lola why she’s stuck around for so long, “It’s bloody good fun!” And isn’t that the reason why us fans have been sticking around for so long too? For hardcore fans of the show, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a comedy classic.

nine-out-of-ten

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Exhibit A (2007)

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Director: Dom Rotheroe

Stars: Bradley Cole, Brittany Ashworth, Angela Forrest

The Seventh Continent in Yorkshire

The found footage genre gets quite a lot of stick. Admittedly it does feel like a new found footage horror film is churned out every week and most of them feel like the same film. Some are quite brilliant though. REC, is probably the finest example the sub-genre has to offer and the criminally under seen Noroi: The Curse is probably the scariest film I have ever sat through. I had never heard of Exhibit A until I stumbled across it on a list which featured the scariest found footage movie moments. Because I’m a twisted individual, the idea of a family crumbling in front of their own camcorder appealed to me and so I sought it out immediately.

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I made a point of reading very little about it because it clearly had a shocking ending which I didn’t want spoilt. I’d urge everyone else to do the same, however if you do know the ending outcome, don’t worry because it’s still worth the watch. It’s a wonderful idea for a found footage film. There are no Spanish zombies, or Blair witches and there are no Norwegian trolls either. It’s all about a regular nuclear family, probably not dissimilar to yours or someone you know and that’s where the disturbing horror really lies.

The film has obviously (and probably literally) been made on a shoestring, but it’s all the more authentic for it. Exhibit A could’ve easily turned into an embarrassing PSHCE film if it felt false, but thankfully it doesn’t. It helps that the performances are so good, especially by the Dad who doesn’t have an easy role to play at all. The Mum sometimes felt a little wooden, but towards the end she crucially pulls out a powerful and authentic performance.

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The trouble with most found footage films is that they don’t actually feel like they’ve been found. Diary of the Dead, for example uses multiple cameras and even has music playing over some scenes! Exhibit A is by far the most ‘real’ found footage film I’ve seen. They’ve obviously shot on an actual cheap camcorder and used a lot of improvisation. You buy into the story and actually begin to feel like you know the characters, thus you care about what happens to them.

Exhibit A is about a man slowly cracking under financial pressures. It starts out comically with lots of funny and warm family moments. I also liked how we got to uncover lots of little things about Judith, the daughter who does the majority of the filming. In the end it becomes a film about secrets and how every family has them. There’s a great moment mid-way through where the film starts to take an uneasy turn into psychological horror. What begins as the Dad trying to humorously stage a video for You’ve Been Framed becomes a desperate act of anger, verging on insanity.

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It’s a very slow film to get going, with a lot of unnecessary scenes which slow the film down, however this does add to the authenticity of it all. It’s the final half hour where things take a disturbing turn and it becomes gripping to watch. The final five minutes are an incredibly harrowing watch. It has imagery that will sear its way into your brain and stay there for a long time.

Exhibit A is a great no budget horror film. It basically tells the same disturbing tale as Michael Haneke’s striking debut, The Seventh Continent. Whilst, Exhibit A isn’t as mind-numbingly depressing as The Seventh Continent, it is almost as effect. The acting is great and features some very powerful scenes which will stay with you. It may be a little slow to begin, but it’s well worth sticking with as you feel immersed in the life of this family. It’s a remarkable little film which deserves way more attention than it has received.

eight-out-of-ten