Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
United Kingdom/USA, 2016. Fox Searchlight Pictures, British Film Company. Screenplay by Jennifer Saunders. Cinematography by Chris Goodger. Produced by Damian Jones, Jon Plowman. Music by Jake Monaco. Production Design by Harry Banks. Costume Design by Rebecca Hale. Film Editing by Anthony Boys, Gavin Buckley, Billy Sneddon.
They smoke too much, they drink too much, they have no respect for any person or institution and they spend money while hardly bothering to make it: in short, they are treasures, as Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley have been proving since the characters of Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone premiered on British television in 1992. The success of Britcoms like The InBetweeners coming to the big screen has inspired a cinematic rehaul of these perpetually hilarious gals to make their way down the same path, and the result is perfectly delightful.
Still living the high life while pretending to be a go-getter, champagne bottle in one hand and smartphone in the other, Edina is devastated to find that she has hit a slump financially and needs to find a way to replenish the coffers if she and best friend Patsy are going to continue their shopping and boozing mayhem. Edina’s attempt to get a book deal flounders when snooty editor Mark Gatiss tells her that her memoirs aren’t worth printing, her status as a holdover from the sixties much more pathetic than glamorous, so instead she decides to invigorate her flailing public relations firm with new blood: Dowager Empress of Supermodels Kate Moss is in need of new representation and Edina has decided to clinch the deal.
Unfortunately, instead of nabbing Kate onto her team, Edina pushes her into the Thames and causes an international scandal, one which sees her become a target of global social media outrage and necessitating a run to the south of France with granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) in tow, whose father’s credit cards they are using as finance. No end of silliness occurs as Lumley’s perfectly modulated, super cool distraction and Saunders’ frantic desperation to be cool (which often results in her tumbling to the ground a lot) are given one excuse after another to manifest themselves, while prim and proper Saffy (Julia Sawalha) continues to dutifully clean up their mess and Edin’s mother (June Whitfield) blithely notices nothing out of place.
What is most impressive about this continuation of these wonderful characters is how well director Mandie Fletcher and screenwriter Saunders have adapted the show to actually fit on the big screen; this isn’t the Sex and the City movie, where stitched-together episodes created a rambling effect, here the plot has the right arcs for a feature film and works all its strands out with surprising clarity. There are a host of celebrity cameos, callbacks to episodes and appearances by all your beloved characters from the series, all of whom play a part in the plot and don’t feel randomly thrown in.
Also well on display is Saunders’ continued ability to take good-natured aim at the vacuity of pop culture trends, implicating a society where designer labels and social justice issues are all given the same level of disingenuous reverence by people who care more about how they appear than what they actually do (this was in the show from its inception, she can be said to have anticipated social media behaviour before it even began).
The only missing element that made the show so funny is specifically the result of its being a big budget movie instead of a low-budget comedy series: the ability, and because this is cinema the necessity, to constantly move forward and explore more spaces means that Saunders is not forced to be creative about maintaining her characters in one room, there is no doing drugs while pontificating on the floor of the bathroom or in a hotel room in Morocco for long periods of time. No matter, though, since her film makes up for this in as many visual jokes as verbal ones, a film that is lightweight and goofy, and likely won’t have too much to offer audiences who are not already primed to love these gals (I should point out that it is my favourite show of all time), but very ably achieves its aim of being fun.