‘Looking’ for an ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ gay time

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Gays looking to grab their entertainment fix have options aplenty this weekend. Patsy and Edina come to the big screen in “Absolutely Fabulous” while HBO closes “Looking” with the finale you've been waiting for. Both are worth seeing, even if one succeeds much more than the other.

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” follows PR guru Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and magazine editor Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) more than 20 years since they bowed and became cult sensations and gay icons. Both women have traditionally loved to drink and do drugs – and Patsy’s trick Rolodex is heavy. The pair have always loved the high life, yet both are in their 60s now and their money has dried up. Edina’s PR clientele is dated and the new book she is pitching doesn’t pan out. 

At a red carpet launch party where everyone is looking to hook celebrity supermodel Kate Moss as a client, Edina gets the blame when Moss winds up sinking into the Thames. After a police interrogation, the two women stay holed up in Edina’s house amidst the media circus until they escape to the French Riviera and come up with a scheme to make them rich eternally.

In 25-minute doses, the antics of Patsy and Edina were spirited and dark in a way that American broadcast TV could never get away with it. But at 90 minutes, it feels padded and extraneous. It starts off snappy – some of the sharpest moments are in the aftermath of Moss’ demise, as the universe collapses in mourning and Edina realizes the severity of the situation. Director Mandie Fletcher and scripter Saunders, though, have a hard time fleshing it out beyond that.

Yet it’s never less than fun, packed with some terrific cameos, including Jon Hamm with a story about the loss of his virginity. Moss has a swell time playing herself – attitude and cigarette in hand – and “Glee’s” Chris Colfer has a role as a stylist. Many of the series regulars pop up too.

Even with its halfway-there plot, Saunders and Lumley work so sharply together that they carry this. It’s probably easier for diehards to digest but new audiences will get it quickly. 

Art it’s not, but it’s nostalgic, breezy summer entertainment, sweetie darling. 

Wrapping up a tale of three gay friends

HBO’s “Looking” debuted in 2014 and was canceled after two seasons. Its tale of three gay friends – Patrick (Jonathan Groff, top photo), Dom (Murray Bartlett), and Agustin (Franlie Alvarez) – in modern day San Francisco had devoted fans but also those who never cared for its pacing and central characters. Director Andrew Haigh finishes the series with this wrap-up.

It picks up almost a year after Patrick moved to Denver after break-ups with barber Richie (Raul Castillo) and then an ugly confrontation with boss turned boyfriend Kevin (Russell Tovey, second photo) as they had moved in together and talked monogamy. Hoping for some closure along the way, Patrick returns to San Francisco for the wedding of Agustin and Eddie (Daniel Franzese). Dom, the oldest of the three friends, is in high professional gear with his new restaurant, yet he and Doris (scene-stealing Lauren Weedman) are still besties.

Over time, Haigh and the three lead actors have added depth to their characters and aged them nicely. Patrick is no longer the wide-eyed innocent expressing shock that a stranger/trick would try to give him a hand-job in a park. He’s much more open sexually – and emotionally – and Groff does some of his best work ever here navigating his personal life. And Augustin – mercifully – has matured as he faces a commitment and the realization that he had hurt people all his life. He and Patrick have a beautiful scene reflecting on their past just before the wedding.

Groff has teased fans about the explicit sex scene he shot for the film. It’s pretty spicy indeed – and hats off to the performer for engaging in a sexual act I never thought I’d see an A-list actor engage in. Yet “Looking” has always been a series more interested in mundane, every day moments than flashes of skin.

Like “Absolutely Fabulous,” regular watchers will get more out of the finale but it’s accessible and easy to follow. Eschewing the ambiguous, hard edges the series created, Haigh wraps up everything rather easily and cozily here, spotlighting some supporting characters – Doris, luckily, gets plenty of wisecracks – in lieu of others, but to his credit the question of who Patrick winds up with – or whether he decides he’s fine being alone – is never resolved until the end, with some genuine moments of suspense and romance. The final 10 minutes of “Looking: The Movie” are excellent. It’s kind of a shame that just as the show seemed to find its groove, it’s gone. Still, this is a fond and loving farewell. 

“Absolutely Fabulous” opens Friday in area theaters. “Looking: The Movie” debuts July 23 at 10 p.m. on HBO.




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