This a review of a Nigerian film that I wrote yesterday for a friend’s site. It was a bit elevated for the blog’s taste, however, so here it is in all of its femdoggish glory.
A dusty courtyard, littered with young socialites chatting away about pressing matters such as who’s dating who or “what dance is d latess ting mehn,” soon turns into a riotous ruckus as a limosine enters and pulls up near a beige cantina. Two men jump out of the vehicle, furiously berating the overly dressed members of this horde who continously jump about and claw at the car as if the risen Michael Jackson wait inside of it. After what seems like an eternity, a purple-haired woman, painted in makeup and working those white boots, casually limps her way to the building.
The crowd now aggressively follows with an awkwardly set distance of two feet. She finally slips inside, the two bodyguards pouting like the fake thugs they were hired to portray as the rabid horde continues to shit itself in insane ecstasy. All of a sudden, the same woman, although stripped of her splendor, lay in a bed, awoken from her hellish fever dream. “Ah, if only the dream were a reality,” she sighs sadly. Welcome to the sloth-paced, harshly toned and crudely acted epic dramedy that is Lady Gagaa.
Please excuse the tedious set up, but it accurately displays how much self-importance the film puts into tired cliches, mediocre directing and a real lack of talent from the cast. In fact, when the film actually manages to offer glimpses of well-manicured struggle or poetic depth, it promptly gets destroyed by the ham-fisted dose of Nollywood nonsense that comes before and after it.
Lady Gagaa’s plot in itself has some interesting bits to offer viewers, but not much. Stefani (Oge Okoye Duru) lives in the River State area of Nigeria, near a general highway (which they frequently use to connect otherwise unrelated scenes) but she most definitely dwells in a village environment.
She lives in perfect dissonance with her balloon-shaped, perpetually scowling gremlin of a mother, who takes time out of her own lousy schedule to put Stefani down and make her truly feel like the “cheap harlot” everyone believes she is.
She’s been slandered as such because of her boyfriend Chris’s (Johnpaul Nwadike) musically barren mates, all of whom have tried to sleep with her, and one of whom, Drake (Chigozie Atuanya) sluggishly attempted to rape her in a flashback.
Nonetheless, her deep-seated morals and reasonable self-esteem does not resonate well with the group as they spread lies like “yeah, I totally banged that broad” around the village.
Stefani truly receives nothing but hatred and disdain throughout the entire film, as if she were a bruised piece of fruit consecutively stepped on by a circle of farmers. Chris does his best to defend her honor, but at the end of the day, shouting “stop” into the belligerent face of ignorance which is Drake begets nothing but more insults. Her only pastime that gives little comfort, singing along to Lady Gaga videos (with a Wii remote in hand…?) brings about more wahala from her mother.
Keep in mind that this directional and neat-sounding plot plays out in a way more lumbering and abrupt fashion than it sounds. Similar to the introduction’s questionable run of events, each scene has the painfully slow pace of an SAT test, while each one forcefully cuts to the next as if shoving the viewer’s head into a cold bucket of water.
Equally jarring and cumbersome, the acting really makes one wonder how certain cast members secured their roles. That’s some blatant ass corruption if Atuanya simply got his role by bribery or nepotism, because MY GAWD he’s atrocious.
It’s understandable that he portrays a useless speck of a man who connives and womanizes, but there’s no excuse for improper word inflection. This guys talks like a drunk Microsoft Sam, and he acts like a knockoff of Charlie Sheen who snorts a boatload of cocaine between each take.
Thankfully Stefani and Chris, arguably the main characters, put in stable performances which remain anchored by their believable love for each other. Stefani, the battered center of the film, still finds herself drawn to Chris, and he to her despite the niggativity raining down on them by his buffoonish companions.
And oh, lest I forget the startlingly poor performance from one Funke Akindele, a veritable Nollywood actress worthy of memory. She gives a little bit of the Funke Factor in her initial moments as the stubborn assistant Luisa to the “biggest rap spitter in d wo’d,” Ray Martins (Yemi Blaq), but she soons coasts her role into common trivial bickering and even reality show-level skankitry as she lets the boss hit to secure her job. Ugh, it’s bit of a sting to see an otherwise established actress pander to the film’s local aesthetic in such a way.
But Lady Gagaa truly deserves no bit of blame on its own. Many of the film’s flaws — the avalanche of cliches, half-assed acting, shoddy camera work, trifling character interactions, overuse of wardrobe, incredibly long scenes involving mundane tasks such as people walking or putting on clothes — rest solely on the shoulders of Nollywood’s aggressive production system.
Don’t worry about subtlety in theme, camera tricks, dramatic readings, proper scene preparation or even a bigger soundtrack budget. Get people together, shoot the scenes, slap it together, burn it to a VCD, wash, rinse, repeat.
This erroneous system works much like a runaway train. They hastily speed towards the destination, never taking the time to check the dials, fix the engine and lubricate the wheels and axles, so that when the huge bundle of mass finally needs to stop and reflect, the pent-up acceleration laughs in the face of artistic truth and slings the disheveled monstrosity to its shitty and underwhelming conclusion.
Lady Gagaa is not a good film, but the quality of its outcome may not have been on the mind of director Obong Bassy Inyan or anyone else involved in the process, which makes the loss of an hour from my life much more painful.
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