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by Mr. X
With a flurry of Nollywood titles finding a new home on Netflix and the gradual re-opening of movie theatres across the world, the afore-threatened cinemas culture is receiving its much-needed redemption. Weeks ago, Netflix launched its mobile version in selected countries in Africa, as a means to satisfy the economic needs of customers pari passu with the increasing appetite for film and TV contents. What seemed unattainable months ago now appears manifest – films are back in stock on a variety of screens, large and small.
One of the latest Nollywood entrants to Netflix is Finding Hubby: The Oyin Clegg story. A story adapted from a viral blog series by Tunde Leye in 2012, simpler times when Blackberry messaging was a la mode and blogging was settling nicely into Nigeria’s media space. With the series reaching about a million hits and garnering endeared fans, as confirmed by ‘Femi Ogunsanwo (Director/Producer), the decision to adapt the story into film emerged as the choicest idea. For the ardent fans, it broiled that familiar fuzzy feeling when an adored work of fiction is to be paired with real-life players. The air of satisfaction, the comforting smiles, even broader smiles when the delectable Ade Laoye was tipped to play the titular Oyin Clegg.
The premise of Finding Hubby is presumably rooted in the kindly law that man or woman should not be alone. An ordinance that ensnares us to fulfil our noble parts as members of one another, whether for romantic love, family or friendship. For this cause, Oyin Clegg (Ade Laoye), together with her friends Toke (Kehinde Bankole) and Gloria (Munachi Abi), for love’s sake, hinge their belief on the skewed simplicity of fantasy. Like mice in a maze, clueless yet relentless, they segue through the world of men – of different shapes, sizes and sensibilities- kissing every frog in the pond hoping, perchance or providence, they find their prince charming. The friends, in tireless pursuit of the innate human sentiments of love and happiness (two mutually exclusive ideas), reach a tipping point where Kehinde Bankole’s character asks the question: “Why are we unlucky with men?”. Oyin Clegg, the centerpiece of the story, not one to concede defeat, marches on in full assurance of a win. She knows what she wants and how to get what she wants. The perfect guy is the goal, the holy grail of some sorts. The more she feeds this fantasy, the farther she drifts from the desired. Her mother (Tina Mba), portrayed as a legal practitioner, who succumbs to piety and spiritualism as opposed to the analytics of logic, believes her daughter’s problem is spiritual and urges her to pursue obedience to God for a chance at an answered prayer.
Oyin is defiant, unflinching, damns mutualism and employs her obtuse social and emotional instincts to solve her problem. Even if it means gaslighting a love-struck colleague, one who wouldn’t mind sweating out in the kitchen to make her lunch or sending her thoughtful gifts, until she loses him to Gloria, her best friend. Or rekindling her lame fantastical whims when an ex-lover whom she brutally insulted 10 years earlier re-emerges, richer and finer. Of course, as the heavily predictable payoff reveals, she’s served the cold hand of revenge.
Oyin does meet her prince charming and for a quarter of a second, her convoluted wishes brim to life; a tall, dark, hunky and wealthy man, down on one knee in a sea of rose petals, holding out a diamond-cut ring. Like a spanner to her wheel of fulfilled desires, she’s plunged back into her misery when she makes a jaw-dropping discovery – her prince charming is gay. And just when we start to find closure with the failings of Oyin’s defiance, her naïve realism of romance and fantasy, we’re slammed with a poorly contrived romantic irony, or what you call “breaking the fourth wall”. An end beat where Oyin asks questions we’re, as much, confused about.
Finding Hubby is heavy on ideas but pales in execution. The writers clearly had a lot to chew on and managed to piece elements of the source material, like abridged chapters, fashioning a story with overused plot devices stringed around it. The weak story arc of Oyin’s friends is one among the many reasons why Finding Hubby fails to take off. Albeit, Ade Laoye is a joy to watch here. Teaming up with her producer from Knockout Blessing, she bares the burden of the role, skimming through the rollercoaster of emotions with aplomb. What makes Ade stand out is the respect, in a far less condescending manner, she has for her on-screen counterparts, the manner she lights up scenes she features, showy at times but still commendable. And her deft handle on fleeting, easy-to-miss naturalistic reactions, a trick reserved for stage players (suggestive of her training), but one Ade deftly wields on-screen, regardless of the loosely enterprising adaptation. Maybe a leaner approach to Oyin’s plight would have rendered a much stronger adaptation. Maybe extra liberties should have been taken with the source material. Or maybe, just maybe, the source material is enough exposé into the mad world of Oyin Clegg.