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Two films hitting screens this month show what happens when ladies break the rules – one more fabulously than the other.
Women defying social mores, whether they’re pushed by society (Thelma and Louise) or driven by their own inner nature (The Opposite of Sex), is by no means a new theme in cinema. But often these boundary-busters become symbols, icons and rebels – not just for their fellow females, but for all manner of other underdogs.
British cult comedy series Absolutely Fabulous certainly fulfils that role. PR mogul Edina and her best friend Patsy have had fans in stitches since 1990, sucking up drugs, alcohol and cigarettes with abandon and hopping on every fad fashion-obsessed London offered up. Their shallowness became a sharp skewering of pop culture, a mirror not just to do coke on, but to hold up to all of us. What a shame it is, then, that the long-awaited film adaptation is dull, conservative and tone-deaf. Playing out like a stretched-thin standard episode, this time the ladies accidentally “kill” Kate Moss at a swanky fashion party, kicking off an on-the-run flick glossier than its TV counterpart. All they actually achieve is to run away from their target audience, attempting to be something to everyone, but falling horribly flat. And somehow they missed the memo that fat, trans and race jokes don’t play too well these days, particularly when they have nothing to say. But the biggest crime is that this doesn’t feel like a wink from funny ladies swilling champagne – it’s more like your drunk aunt passed out in the corner, signalling that the party is over.
Meanwhile across the pond, the party’s just getting started. Bad Moms may be exploring the conservative milieu of the suburban mother, but it stays sharp and hilarious for almost its entire running time. Amy (Mila Kunis) is on the brink of a crisis – she works too much, has two very needy kids and a husband who doesn’t lift a finger – when she snaps at a PTA meeting and decides to become a “bad mom”. In effect, the movie is about letting go – of her responsibilities as a mother, a wife and member of the community. Make no mistake, this is very much a product of Hollywood, and comes with all its trappings. But the snappy dialogue, right touch of gross-out humour and a few genuinely subversive elements ensure that ladies letting go has rarely been so much fun.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie | Directed by Mandie Fletcher (UK 2016) with Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley. Starts September 8
Bad Moms | Directed by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore (USA 2016) with Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn. Starts September 22