Feminist Criticism / Women Film-makers

On Absolutely Fabulous The Movie and creating spaces for women’s cinema

absolutely fabulous the movie

Artwork by Chloe Leeson

It was recently announced that The Absolutely Fabulous Movie had the biggest opening of a British film since Spectre, raking in 4.4m in its opening weekend UK box office. Directed by Mandie Fletcher and written by Jennifer Saunders, who also penned the original series and makes up 1/2 of the star pair Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, this is certainly a feat for a completely woman-helmed film. Even more of a feat considering the run of dry and unfunny British TV-to-cinema outings there has been of late; Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, The Bad Education Movie, The Harry Hill Movie, the list goes on and on.

Absolutely Fabulous’ satirical look into the world of fashion and a pair of corrupt over-spending women that work in it captivated TV audiences for 6 seasons between 1992-2012, making national sweethearts of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. But the succession of Absolutely Fabulous the Movie is not just in its genuinely funny and charismatic leads, the demand people still have for the lives of Edina and Patsy or their cult status on British TV, but the space that Fletcher, Saunders and Lumley have carved out of the vast world of mainstream cinema- one where women can relax and be indulgent.

I seen AbFab the Movie last week with my mum- a non-cinema person. She doesn’t come with me to see films, outside of my childhood we have seen 4 films together in a cinema. AbFab seemed like the perfect excuse for a mother-daughter night out. It was, and the entire cinema had had the same idea. Woman after woman clambered into their seats, shaking plastic cups filled wine, necklaces djangling and the clicking sound of heels going up the steps, paired with that familiar and warm chatty essence a room full of women exudes. There was about 5 men in the entire screening, it was peaceful. There was no rush to claim my seat, no need to make sure I had sufficient arm-room for the films duration, no need to kick my legs out so a man’s spread legs didn’t dwarf me in my chair, no musty dude smell, no pretentious film fans, no one kicking off when a group of friends would burst out laughing for no apparent reason in the trailers- essentially, film-viewing bliss as far as packed screenings go.

Aside from the cinema experience itself being full of women and a peaceful environment to sit and enjoy, there was an overwhelming sense of ‘me time’ in the room. Women away from their partners, away from their kids, away from work, meeting up with old friends, allowing themselves time to kick back with a box of popcorn and overpriced mini-bottle of wine that was most definitely more expensive than a full-sized bottle of Echo Falls from Asda you could have got on the way.

Edina and Patsy welcome us gals into their champagne-holding arms, give us a little wink, a faux fur stole and say ‘you do you, sweetie darling’. They revel in their narcissism, dedicating their lives to the pursuit of their dreams and whatever fabulous opportunities may arise. They aren’t inherently good people, but that’s why we enjoy watching them. Edina becomes even more aware of her flaws in the film than she does in the original show (such as how awful she is to her daughter), but she can’t help being the way she is, her exterior does soften throughout the duration of the film but her main characteristics still hold strong. No matter how many negative connotations fashion icons Edina and Patsy have, such as their selfish ways, spending habits, alcoholism and drug use, they are largely different women characters from the ones we usually get to see. This isn’t your ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic‘ ditzy chick-flick with a man-shaped prize at the end, this is a stealthy fashion industry satire, over-the-top grandeur, have your cake-eat it, throw it up because you’ve drank too much, buy 5 bigger cakes and frost them all with cocaine type of situation. Edina and Patsy’s dedication to themselves, in whatever aspect of their lives, be it style, work or romance, is completely centered around them. They are never distracted from their pursuit of pleasure, never veered off by a romantic story-line and most importantly, never break their friendship, arguably the strongest part of the whole film. During one moment where Edina believes she is fat, Patsy claims ‘you don’t need mirrors, darling, I am your mirror’ and tells her she looks ‘fabulous’, this building up of female friendship- specifically in an industry as cut-throat as fashion and advertising, is a trick that a lot of women could easily take on board in a world that so often pits us against each other.

Absolutely Fabulous is sisters doing it for themselves, and being completely hammered while doing so. It’s nostalgic for fan’s of the original show, empowering for women hoping to make it in the film industry, a perfect excuse for bonding with mum/grandma/auntie/sister, a safe space for women to chill in a cinema and a dedicated, hilarious look into women who put themselves first.

By Chloe Leeson


CHLOEChloe Leeson is the founder of Screenqueens. She is 20 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller a whole lot. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, The Beach and Lords of Dogtown. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff.

 

 

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