Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a 2016 British comedy film directed by Mandie Fletcher and written by Jennifer Saunders, based on the television series Absolutely Fabulous. It stars Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield in her final film role and Jane Horrocks, reprising their roles from the series. The film finds the drug-addicted, alcoholic PR agent Edina Monsoon and her best friend/codependent Patsy Stone on the run from the authorities after it is suspected they killed supermodel Kate Moss. The film serves as a de facto series finale for the show.
Principal photography began on 12 October 2015 in the south of France. The film premiered in London on 29 June 2016. Theatrically released in the United Kingdom on 1 July 2016, the film is distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures worldwide.
The ever-glamorous and self-indulgent Edina and Patsy are now in their 60s, and Edina is still running her PR agency, which is quickly running out of money and interest. The duo realise that Edina needs a miracle to save her PR company and renew her reputation.
Bubble wakes up a hungover Edina, who has come home from a fashion event. Edina realises that she signs a deal for an autobiography that day. Edina wakes Patsy up and tells her about her book, and how it will be "made into a film because it's about her life", while Patsy self-applies Botox. The company head, (Mark Gatiss) rejects Edina's book because it is lazily written and there is little interest in Edina's PR agency. While Patsy is setting up designer Huki Muki's fashion event, Patsy learns that supermodel Kate Moss is changing her PR, and immediately informs Edina. Patsy phones while Edina is at a PR meeting with rival PR Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie) and during the phone call with Patsy she accidentally leaves her phone on "speaker" and Claudia learns that Kate Moss needs a new PR.
Edina and Patsy go to the fashion event with Edina's granddaughter Lola while Saffron "Saffy" Monsoon, Edina's daughter and Lola's mother, has a night out with her new boyfriend Nick (Robert Webb). Edina finds Kate Moss on the balcony overlooking the Thames. As she moves to speak to her, she notices that Claudia is also heading for her. Rushing to get to Kate first, Edina accidentally bumps into her and she falls off the balcony and into the river. Among the witnesses is Lulu, who is already at odds with Edina over missed singing engagements.
Hysteria pervades the event as Kate is presumed dead. The media immediately storm the scene to report her disappearance and assumed death. Edina and Patsy, along with Lola, are taken into police custody. Saffy arrives to see them and make sure Lola is all right in company with Nick, who is revealed to be a police detective.
Edina returns home the next day. Patsy arrives angry. She's been fired from her job because of her association with Edina and the previous night's events. The pair make up and return to the Thames to look for Kate, using Bubble with a flashing beacon upon her head to simulate and retrace how Moss may have been carried away, but the beacon comes loose and unable to find Bubble, they presume her dead, too. They decide to flee before the media firestorm gets worse, taking Lola and her credit card along. The three land in Cannes while Saffy desperately searches for Lola or clues to her whereabouts back in London, finally consulting Christopher (Chris Colfer), Edina's friend and stylist.
In Cannes, Edina and Patsy call upon Patsy's ex-lover, billionaire Charlie (Barry Humphries). After Charlie rejects them, they seek help from Edina's mother (June Whitfield), who is celebrating her cousin Violet's birthday. During this party, they encounter the richest woman in the world. To attract the woman and get quick money, Patsy quickly changes her identity to a male alter-ego, "Pat" Stone. The following day, Patsy marries the rich woman and Edina and Patsy find the wealth they were looking for as they stay in a high-class hotel with Dame Joan Collins and Dame Edna Everage as fellow guests.
Meanwhile, Edina and Patsy are seen in public by Emma Bunton who tells Lulu about their whereabouts. Saffy arrives in Cannes with Nick and immediately heads to the hotel to find Lola. Lola is with Emma who tells Saffy of Edina's whereabouts, even though it is the least of Saffy's concerns. Lulu flies out to Cannes and meets with Bubble, who reveals that Kate just swam off and did not drown in the Thames. Bubble also reveals that she is also a millionaire and owns a massive Cannes pavilion because she has had control of Edina's accounts for years, and has been embezzling from the company.
Lulu reports Edina and Patsy's whereabouts to the police, since her only desire is to destroy Edina for what she has done. The police find Edina and Patsy and chase them through the town, the duo escaping in a small three-wheeled fish-market van. As they reach Bubble's pavilion, the van's brakes fail and they roll backwards and fall into an infinity pool attached to Bubble's house. Saffy arrives at the scene to find Edina and Patsy slowly sinking into the pool, still inside the van. Edina apologises to Saffy for being a careless mother and wishes to drown in the pool, and to finally embrace the fact that she is old and can't run from justice forever. Saffy tells her that she loves her. Bubble reveals that Kate Moss didn't drown in the Thames, and Edina immediately exits the van, realising she's innocent.
A montage plays of countries celebrating that Kate Moss is still alive and that Edina is her new PR. Edina's PR agency is renewed, and Kate is in even more demand now that she has been found. The film finishes with Patsy revealing to her rich wife that she isn't actually a man called "Pat" and is really a woman. Her wife reveals that she is actually a man and the film closes with the series's popular theme song, "This Wheel's on Fire" sung by Kylie Minogue.
Multiple celebrity cameo appearances in the film were announced over the course of filming. In April 2016, Fox and the BBC confirmed a list of 60 cameos, most of which had not yet been announced, that would be featured in the film. They include:
Saunders wrote and starred in Absolutely Fabulous, a British television sitcom for the BBC, which originally ran for three series from 1992 to 1995, with intermittent additional series and specials until 2012. Absolutely Fabulous features the champagne-fueled duo of "international PR guru" Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and "sex-crazed magazine editor" Patsy Stone (Lumley). Additional characters include Edina's overly serious daughter Saffron (Sawalha), her daffy mother (Whitfield) and her even daffier assistant Bubble (Horrocks).
Deadline Hollywood broke the story in November 2011 that Saunders planned to begin writing a film version of the series in 2012. The film would begin with Edina and Patsy waking up hungover after a party on an oligarch's yacht, with everyone else gone and the boat somewhere the middle of the ocean. Saunders later said that she hoped to shoot the film on the French Riviera. In March 2012, Saunders confirmed that she was working on the script. She said of the plot:
Eddy and Patsy are looking for what they imagine glamorous life should be. They're constantly searching for that perfect place to sit or that perfect pair of sunglasses. It's Shangri-La and it just might be round the next corner. In the meantime, they decide to take Saffy's daughter off her—she calls her Jane, I call her Lola—but then they lose her.
Calling herself the "worst procrastinator in the world", Saunders said in January 2014:
Yes, well I have to do it now because I've threatened to a lot ... And then she [Lumley] kept announcing it and saying, "Yes, she's going to do it," and then Dawn French on our radio show at Christmas said, "I bet £100,000 that you don't write it," so now I have to write it, otherwise I have to pay her £100,000 ... Once you've had a bit of success, the last thing you want to do is go and make a flop. So the biggest fear in me is that it won't be good enough. I'm really nervous about it.
In April 2014, Saunders again confirmed on BBC Breakfast that she was in the process of writing the film. In April 2015, Saunders explained her delay with the script, saying "I think that's why I didn't do it for a while ... I thought, 'Wouldn't it be awful if it was awful.'" She then quipped, "but we're all so old, and Joanna [Lumley] said to me, 'Do it before we die!' We're all on the brink." Saunders also noted, "[The film] involves all the main characters and virtually everyone that's ever been in the series—all those characters". Lumley confirmed in July 2015 that the film's script was finished and that production would begin in October. She said of the project, "We are all there, the same old gang ... It is going to be ravishingly funny! Very gorgeous ... and completely fabulous!"
In August 2015, Deadline.com reported that "all of the original main cast" were confirmed, with Fox Searchlight Pictures in negotiations to co-finance and co-produce the film with BBC Films, and to handle worldwide distribution. It was also announced that Mandie Fletcher would direct, with Jon Plowman and Damian Jones as producers and Saunders, French and Maureen Vincent as executive producers. Deadline.com later reported that Christine Langan, Steve Milne, Christian Eisenbeiss and Nichola Martin were also executive producing, with DanTram Nguyen, Vice President of Production and Katie Goodson-Thomas, Director of Production overseeing the project for Fox .
Principal photography began on 12 October 2015 in south of France. The BBC and Fox Searchlight subsequently released a promotional image of Saunders and Lumley in character on a yacht. Along with Sawalha, Whitfield and Horrocks, Kathy Burke was confirmed to be reprising her role as Magda, and Kate Moss, Emma Bunton and Lulu would appear in guest roles as themselves, as they had in the TV series. The cameo appearances of Harry Styles, Kelly Hoppen and Kim Kardashian were also announced as filming began. Multiple other celebrity cameos were announced during production, culminating with a 60-name list released in April 2016.
Deadline.com's Ali Jaafar wrote of the film's plot in October 2015:
Edina and Patsy are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London’s trendiest hotspots. Blamed for a major incident at an uber fashionable launch party, they become entangled in a media storm and are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. Fleeing penniless to the glamorous playground of the super-rich, the French Riviera, they hatch a plan to make their escape permanent and live the high life forevermore!
In December 2015, the film sparked controversy and accusations of racism when it was announced that Caucasian comedienne Janette Tough would be playing a Japanese character named Huki Muki. Korean American comedian Margaret Cho accused Ab Fab: The Movie of "yellowface", which she described as "when white people portray Asian people. And unfortunately it's happening in this film." Upon release of the film it became apparent that the character was not, in fact, Japanese but Scottish. When asked about the controversy, Saunders replied "the whole film is about people being what they're not, Huki Muki is a brand, she is the designer and she looks a bit Japanese, but the moment she opens her mouth she's from Glasgow. There's no yellow makeup..."
Australian singer Kylie Minogue recorded and released a promotional single, a cover of the series' theme song "This Wheel's on Fire", as the official theme for the film. This new rendition, produced by Richard Stannard and Ash Howes, was released on 10 June 2016. The soundtrack, which also includes songs from Paloma Faith (whose "Ready for the Good Life" appears in the film's trailer), La Roux, Jason Derulo, Eartha Kitt, Nancy Sinatra, Santigold and others, was released on 22 July 2016 via Rhino Records. It debuted at number 38 on the ARIA Albums Chart in Australia on 6 August.
As of 14 February 2017[update], Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has grossed $37.9 million worldwide, including $19.5 million in the United Kingdom, $4.7 million in the United States, under very limited release, and $6.2 million in Australia. It was also released in Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 58% based on 149 reviews; the average rating is 5.52/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie picks up pretty much where its source material left off, delivering an adaptation that, as fans of this British export might say, does what it says on the tin." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100 based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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Saunders has hinted that a sequel had been considered if the film performs well at the box office. However, on 28 November 2016, Saunders confirmed that she "was done with Absolutely Fabulous" and it would not be returning to television for another series, or specials, nor would a film sequel be made. Saunders now wishes to focus on new projects and spend more time with her family.