KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
Searching for real love
A review of “The Bridesmaid”
Ulzee Films © 2004
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
STARRING: Richard Mofe-Damijo, Stella Damasus-Aboderin, Kate Henshaw-Nuttall, Chioma Chukwuka, Henry Ese Dainyo, and T. J. Morgan * DIRECTOR: Charles Novia * Retail outlet: www.africamotion.com
Very few Nollywood movies have all the elements that make them fit for personal collection. The Bridesmaid earns its for-keeps easily. The mere fact that it still outsells latest releases and that it remains the favorite of many non-Nigerian Nollywood devotees drives the point home. The movie proves that the infusion of unnecessary violence, sex, and juju does not a great movie make. Using a very simple and believable plot, based on a story developed by Happy Novia, Director Charles Novia weaves a story that will become a classic for generations yet to come.
Twenty-six-year-old Tega (Stella Aboderin) couldn’t take it anymore after seven bridesmaid gigs within one year. At her friend’s (Eliza’s) wedding, she is no longer a happy camper. All her attempts at being the bride have met with scandalous dead-ends, as if her world is full of married men. She resigns herself to faith when another friend and go-getter, 28-year-old Kate (Kate Henshaw-Nuttall), catches the bride's bouquet at Eliza’s wedding and books her (Tega) to be the bridesmaid! Believing that a woman over 25 is an “old layer,” Kate spreads out her web, telling whomever will listen that she needs a man… any man with the wherewithal.
Enter playboy Steve (RMD), an orphan adopted and raised by a very rich man, Chief Nakpodia (T. J. Morgan), who has recently passed and who himself was adopted, leaving a videotaped will. The lawyer, Barrister Omu (Henri Ese Sainyo) wastes no time in revealing the unique format of the will. The gist: Steve stands to inherit Nakpodia’s stupendous wealth on one condition, or else he will lose everything. The question then is: Where will Steve find within three months a woman that will love him and marry him for him – not for the money. With numerous money-hungry hangers-on, it will be a miracle to find such a woman in Lagos, Nigeria. The movie eventually proves the point.
Now Mrs. Eliza Banks (Chioma Chukwuka) works at the lawyer’s office. She is familiar with the will’s secret, and, as if in a scene from Terry McMillan's novel acted out in Living Colors or Girlfriends, she (Eliza) reveals the information to her friends (Tega and Kate) in a routine evening chitchat. Kate needs no prompting to breach the trust and to prod Eliza to compromise her professional ethics. She sets out to trap and to marry Steve so he can inherit the wealth and make her a rich, married woman. It does not take long nor much convincing before she throws herself at Steve, stopping herself only briefly to appear hard-to-get, thanks to Tega’s more mature coaching.
What started as a prank (to Eliza and Tega) soon takes a right turn on the road to a serious relationship between Kate and Steve. Alas, not much in the affairs of men and women is hidden for too long. The lies soon begin to unfold at the helms, even without anyone outside the girls’ group knowing about the unethical disclosure and with Tega’s tagalong... against her good conscience. Probably acting on Uncle Nakpodia's recommended test for sincerity of purpose, Steve sets up a scam to test Kate’s sincerity. With Tega’s help, Kate scales over the huddle, but she is anything but sincere and seriously in love. Why she holds on to another flame while gold-digging in Steve’s supposedly fractured backyard is akin to pussyfooting with pigmy crickets while carrying the carcass of an elephant. One is bound to give, especially with Tega going against her vow to play the bridesmaid yet again!
What follows is a powerful performance that proves once again that RMD (Richard Mofe-Damijo) is the indisputable “Denzil Washington” of Nollywood. In this movie, he is the natural actor and then some. Chioma Chukwuka, Stella Damasus-Aboderin, and Kate Henshaw-Nuttall cannot be faulted either; together, the ladies show why they retain top-billing in many Nollywood movies. The four principal actors score high on both acting and on their most natural and crispy oratory, not the fake Americana and Cockney accents that now flood Nollywood.
In Nollywood movies, the good girl almost always wins. In this case, the director does not hide the fact that Tega will win. She is placed at the right places at the right time, to the point that the purported business consultant appears not to have a job; not one phone call was job-related! Else, why will she accept the nursing of an invalid groom-to-be when he can afford ten professional nurses and while his bride-to-be is gallivanting in London with another -- "Jim"? The ending is as beautiful as it is dramatic: “a game to find out if love is real and if love exists.”
Love exists, most certainly, and it is real; how long it lasts is another story. So one cannot rule out a sequel completely. Well, if it has not happened in two years, it may never happen. If it happens, and if it is half as good as The Bridesmaid, I am sure Nollywood aficionados will understand. It will prove that instant sequels are not art; rather, they are driven by marketing strategies designed to milk a product before pirates swoop in to feed on the carcass of a cash cow they didn't feed.
The production team did a wonderful job. However, the ending needed a more defining dramatic touch. Steve should have tested Tega's love for "reality"! Who is to say that she too does not have her eyes solely on the money? What makes her any less desperate to hook a man? Nothing shows that she is a woman of more substance than Kate. Director of Photography Omos Akhigbe captured the scenes beautifully and Director Charles Novia is almost flawless. Another director or producer would have developed “Part Two” by stretching the plot to yet another wedding and a glimpse of the fancy-full life of the supposed true lovebirds. Mr. Novia did a wonderful job in packaging the story within an hour and half, without the annoying and now-acceptable instant sequel (“Part 2”), which has moved on to “Part Three” (in “Captain,” an Igbo-language epic movie with Nkem “Osuofia” Owoh) and even on to Part One, Two, Three, and Four (!) – as in “Standing Order.”
The irritating opening-and-closing-of-gates sequence appears only once, and that is worthy of emulation by Nollywood directors. The story is largely believable, but it could be better. Although the videotaping of a will is not popular, the fact that Steve expresses surprise puts it in context: it is new but legal. However, if Steve’s adoptive parent is his only relative, it follows naturally that he stands to inherit the man’s wealth. Therefore, the conditional marry-to-inherit-or-lose-all-to-charity condition may not stand much scrutiny in a traditional Nigerian society. Then again, no one has tested such cases in a court of law, and single-parent adoption is not common. Life sometimes imitates art, so the practice may become normal in future. A non-Nigerian may find Steve’s faked accident surreal, but the setting is Nigeria – with the right connections and for the correct cash, such setups are easy to pull off.
The Bridesmaid scores seven stars on an eight-star chart… now that Pluto is taken off the planetary roster! That's a B+. Points are taken off for the Salvation Army wedding gown -- allegedly purchased in London, for a wheelchair that has seen better days, and for a wedding scene fit for a pauper... when the groom is sitting on millions. In all, whether one buys the original VCD or a legitimate DVD format, it’s one Nollywood movie you won’t want to lend because it is not giving a baboon a cup of water that is problematic; it's getting the cup back.
Enjoy the movie and, for goodness sake, do not patronize pirates!
© M. O. ENÉ, 2006
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