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Popular Nollywood studios have taken to heart the challenge to make reimagined sequels to classics, with releases like Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Living in Bondage, Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Chronicles, Blood Sisters, and the latest in the league, Glamour Girls as recent entries. While some may have been just shy of hitting the mark, others have performed rather poorly.
Bunmi Ajakaiye is a fast growing film director and writer, with recent success in film and TV. Her current work ‘Glamour Girls’ is not her best work and, in some way, calls her artistic reputation to question.
In a release as underwhelming as this, it’s only right to at least try to consider the intent, if there’s any:
To start with, we can analyze the plot:
True to its title, ‘Glamour Girls’ does offer glamour along with the luxuries that come with it. The reimagined classic opens with the introduction of Emmanuella (Sharon Ooja of Oloture) whose main hustle as a stripper/sex worker garners her quite the admiration. The opening sequence also features Zeribe (Ames Gardiner) who becomes, for Emmanuella, a stepping stone to meeting Donna after he mischievously gets her sacked from her hustle as a stripper. A little similar to Sandra (Jennifer Okere) in the original ‘Glamour Girls’ 1994, Emmanuella is dissatisfied with her low earnings and wants something big for herself as a higher level ‘ashawo’ – local Nigerian word for a call girl.
Fast forward couple of frames later, she given an opportunity to show what she’s got (sex with Donna’s emotionally estranged husband) before earning her keep in the upper echelons of sex work. However, Emmanuella turns out to be only a part of the whole story as other characters like Helion Martin (Segilola Ogidan – A Naija Christmas), Louise (Toke Makinwa – Blood Sisters) and Jemma (Joselyn Dumas – AM Dilemma) are introduced to us. We are then taken on a grand tour into their private lives.
Louise is married but does regular hook-ups to sustain her family, while Helion (Hel) is a rich kid who signs into Donna establishment because she likes fun. Jemma was once the most-wanted girl Donna had, and both had shared a unique relationship until she broke the golden rule – Never give your love for free- and had to leave for a while. Another character worth mentioning by the frequency of his appearance is Tommy (Temisan Emmanuel). However, Tommy is nothing but a Hollywood character in a Nollywood film and he serves little to no purpose.
The unexciting two hour drill begins to hint at some promise when complications arise in the second act of the film. Jemma’s return to Donna for financial help in the first act gets her back into the game. She meets Alexander (Chukie “Lynxxx” Edozien) who, despite being a ‘boy-boy’ (lackey) to an extremely wealthy cabal, controls a vast amount of wealth himself. Like the proverbial dog returning to its own vomit, she develops an emotional attachment to Alexander too, but it doesn’t last.
Alexander turns out to be a monster who consistently rapes Jemma’s son, Ese (Prince Buchi Unigwe). She kills him the night she finds out (in a graphic confrontation we never see coming), and Donna helps her get rid of Alexander’s body (a move Kemi and Sarah of Blood Sisters could have considered). But what they don’t know is that the now decaying Alexander was the custodian of the cabal’s wealth – A staggering sum of $15 billion. Hell breaks loose on the girls as the cabal want their money! (yet another unexplored story opportunity).
While Jemma deals with her problems, Emma meets again with Zeribe who, in an attempt to make up for getting her sacked, introduces her to his boss , Segun/Sheggy’ (Femi Branch). The two get along over a football match, and soon Emma’s life begins to take a new form. Six months of being with Segun sees her undergo a massive transformation in her looks, fashion sense, speech, and education. He secures her a bank job even though she lacks experiential knowledge. But, unfortunately, this relationship doesn’t last as Sheggy soon finds out about her past and, minutes into the same sequence, catches her in bed with Zeribe. The less is said about that story thread, the better.
Louise’s husband’s (Uzor Arukwe – Prophetess) surprising return from overseas throws her life into uncertainty. We aren’t given details of his journey abroad, but upon his discovery of Louise’s lifestyle, he flees with their children and threatens her to keep a steady financial flow for their basic needs otherwise she will never see them again. Yet again, certain questions come up; why did Louise continue with her act even though she had another means of survival? Did it arise as a result of her husband’s financial incapability? The extremely underdeveloped backstories for the girls does more to ruin a struggling plot.
Helion, a character with the most potential to engage, is underutilized for unknown reasons. Here, we have a rich girl who goes into drugs and sex work for ‘the fun of it’. She tells Donna she doesn’t need money for survival because her family’s wealth is enough to cater for her needs. If you’ve seen Kunle Afolanyan’s ‘A Naija Christmas’ you’ll be aware of Segilola Ogidan’s undoubted talent. She more than delivers here in Glamour Girls and really should work with better material. Later on, Helion discovers she is pregnant, with no idea of who the father might be, and then dies from an overdose.
‘Glamour Girls’ tries to add some social commentary by reminding the viewers of the existence of the cabal, the depths into which the bulk of the nation’s wealth trickle into. The first time we see Chief Nkem (Ejike Asiegbu) – commander-in-chief of the cabal, he loads Donna with two medium sized bags of cash brought in by a uniformed officer for her girls. Instantly, the picture initiates some thinking. The political elite are not alone in sucking the country dry. They work with coconspirators and underlings, most of them people we know and respect as social leaders. ‘Glamour Girls’ is, at its core, a moralistic picture that positions its characters at junctions where there must make critical choices. But these choices hardly matter or aren’t allowed to matter because they are rooted in several layers of dross.
The story feels like isolated nests of ideas stitched together till it’s along to be called a feature length material. What the writer fails to understand is that ensemble stories still need a central character that guides us into the story. Glamour Girls doesn’t have that. Instead, it chooses to tell everyone’s story at the same time and it makes for a very confusing experience. For large parts, there’s a freewheeling feel to the film that suggests the absence of a director. Of course, there’s a director attached to the project and she definitely was present throughout the shoot but you wonder if the movie is a step too far. As usual, the intentions are great but the craft was found wanting. You simply can’t give what you don’t have.
The backlash that has trailed the film since its Netflix release is reminiscent of Ebony Life’s Chief Daddy 2. Both films suffer the same artistic disease; Why Make A Sequel without a Proper Dramatic Focus/Material?
- Was I the only one who noticed the stereotypical representation of Nigerian politicians?
- Ejike Asiegbu has given us beautiful memories as children. But I think all stories must come to an end.
- Sharon Ooja tries her best but this feels like Oloture all over again. But she does show a lot of spirit, I’d give her that.
- The less that is said about the flash drive saga, the better.
by Precious Rashidi