Patsy & Edina, aka Joanna & Jennifer, are back together, and still ‘Absolutely Fabulous’
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Do I hear the pop of a champagne cork, darling?
It’s been nearly 24 years since the BBC television series Absolutely Fabulous premiered as a testament to the hedonism of its era. Both Edina Monsoon (played by series creator Jennifer Saunders) and her ride-or-die bestie Patsy Stone (played by Joanna Lumley) were high-profile career women thick in the midst of London’s fashion scene. To cope with their bustling lives, Eddy and Pats, as they fondly call one another, relied heavily on their friendship and on their vices, legal and otherwise.
“Well, these are people who have been friends since they began,” Saunders says of the pernicious pair. “Eddy is in P.R. She thinks she’s a fashion P.R. guru. Patsy works as an editor on a fashion magazine. They’re utterly useless. They’re inseparable friends, and they walk in chaos.”
“A chaos of drink and cigarettes and champagne,” Lumley interjects.
Saunders had long intended to write a theatrical screenplay reuniting the television cast. She mentioned it often enough, in fact, that fans and cast members alike had begun pressuring her to finish. As a result of such peer pressure, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was born, a film which Variety recently reported as having the biggest weekend open in the U.K. since last October’s Spectre. The film’s U.S. opening, then — especially to gay fans — is indeed a cause for a glass of bubbly.
Saunders viewed writing the feature screenplay as a challenge. She wanted to craft a story that would at once please her loyal audiences and also appeal to a new generation of moviegoers. She also wanted to present a humorous commentary on modern life.
“I write to amuse Joanna, really,” Saunders says, laughing. “I think if you wrote it with too many people, too many audiences in mind, you’d die of the pressure. I just basically write what I think will be funny. And what I wanted is if people could see this film and not have known the series and still enjoy it, but that it would also satisfy people that knew the series extremely well.”
The movie’s dateline is present-day London. Edina’s daughter, Saffron, has a new boyfriend, and her granddaughter, Lola, is now a teenager. Other than this, it seems as if not much else has changed for the antics-prone duo.
“Well, we just get older, it so happens,” Saunders laments. “Edina gets older and fatter, and actually Patsy doesn’t change at all. She’s just sort of embalmed and remains exactly the same.”
The story begins with Edina, whose funds are running low, planning to publish a memoir. When the publisher refuses to give her an advance, Edina hatches a plan to snare supermodel Kate Moss as a new P.R. client. An unfortunate turn of events, however, leaves Edina headlining the news and outwitting both police and paparazzi as she and Patsy flee to the French Riviera.
The colorful film is peppered with more than 50 celebrity cameo appearances: Glee’s Chris Colfer, for example, plays Edina’s hairstylist, Rebel Wilson plays an airline attendant, and Texas native Jerry Hall, fashion designer Stella McCartney, and recording artists Emma Bunton and Lulu all make appearances as themselves. If any requests from her celebrity wish list went unfilled, Saunders did not offer names.
“You always end up with the people who are available on the day and who you love and who you know and who are easygoing and happy,” she says. “We just said look, we’re having a party. Will you come and be in it? Lots of people turned up and were incredibly generous.”
As one would expect, the film also contains a great deal of slapstick. In a Keystone Kops-esque segment, Eddy and Pats lead a low-speed chase in a hijacked three-wheeled delivery truck. The scene literally ends with a big splash.
“We insisted on doing our own stunts,” Saunders quips. “Obviously, it’s a reach from a car traveling at almost three miles an hour to take a cigarette off a completely supine man. It was a bit challenging. I managed it. Jennifer, would you like to add something about how you managed?”
“Yes, I’d never been on a scooter before,” Lumley adds, “and they wouldn’t let me wear a helmet. I was very, very brave. It’s almost the most exercise I’ve ever done.”
The original series was a hit with the LGBT community, and the movie — which prominently showcases high fashion and drag queens — will undoubtedly again garner its support. Saunders is happy to credit the gay community for a large portion of the franchise’s success.
“We owe the gay community a huge deal, too, because they’ve helped make the show popular,” Saunders says. “And we love having them as fans.”
Just don’t expect to see Saunders on any gay Pride parade floats.
“Oh, honestly,” she chuckles. “It wouldn’t float if I was on it.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.