Most of the reviews I’ve heard or read about this new cinematic version of Ab Fab have been by young men, who, while continuing to hero-worship Joanna Lumley, have tended to dismiss the movie as a bit passe – a revival of a 90s pop culture phenomenon whose satire fails to live up to the original.
But I reckon they’re wrong, and I’m offering a defiantly female – make that older female – perspective on this movie, which I loved.
For a start, men just don’t engage with celebrity culture the way women do. Think about it: how many couples do you know in which HE is variously bemused by or scornful of the fact that SHE knows the names and ethnic backgrounds of Angelina Jolie’s children, the drug habits of Kate Moss’s boyfriends, what Rose Byrne wore to the Oscars, and the fact that Jamie and Jools Oliver are upstaging Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates by giving their daughters cutesie girly flowery names like Poppy Honey Rose, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Daisy Boo Pamela?
In my experience, most men don’t read celebrity magazines but most women do, even if as a guilty pleasure, and even if we only dare pick them up in the dentist’s waiting-room. That’s how we know stuff like…well, the names of the Geldof gels which to prove a point I’ll rattle off for you right here and now, WITHOUT GOOGLING. Here goes: Peaches Honeyblossom, Fifi Trixibelle and Pixie. And then of course there’s their little sister Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily who isn’t Geldof’s biological child but the orphaned offspring of Yates and the likewise late Michael Hutchence. How many blokes remember that kind of detail?!
The thing is you’ve got to know all this stuff to properly appreciate Ab Fab, and to see that Saunders’ and Lumley’s skewering of celebrity culture and fashionista folly is as sharply hilarious as ever, and nicely updated to accommodate the fact that they are ten years older.
And that’s a point missed by young reviewers: the poignancy – yes! It’s not all silliness – of these two ageing fashion slaves trying to stay on top of a game that values only youth and superficial beauty. Patsy is still a vacuous, venomous hedonist in denial about her ageing, and Edina’s ego is as fragile as ever, but their co-dependence is still a rich source of comedy and, this time, pathos. Watch out for the late scene in which they try to put a noble end to it all in true Thelma and Louise style but….fail.
I’m not going to summarise the plotline or mention the galaxy of star cameos the girls have recruited to their cause – I’m sure you’ve read or heard all about them in the abundant pre-release publicity. I’ll just say do yourselves a favour girls – go and have a absolutely fabulous laugh. And tell me what you think!
This review was first published on Facebook in 2016