Every writer is plagued with that itchy curiousity that nothing can satisfy, no matter how much we pick at this itch, we never quite get answers. Hand in hand with this itch is the dogged need to see something to its end, a boring book, a horrible movie or a less than satisfying meal, it is a writer’s compulsion to see it through. This compulsion is founded on a fear of missing out on the smallest details only our very perceptive eyes may catch, how many times do we beat ourselves up for having missed something that may have been significant because we threw in the towel too early.
Such was my state of mind on Thursday June 1 2017, when I decided to honour an invite to the premiere of the movie Stormy Hearts. The cliche title should have given its mediocrity away, but hey! my persistent curiosity and an optimism that perhaps it wouldn’t follow the trend of Nigerian movies that prefer tastelessness over substance; the burning need for Nigerian movie producers to have a bulk of movies riddled with insipidity in their repertoire than a few that have substance, is something I am yet to understand. For the Nigerian movie producer, the more movies you have tied to your name, despite its uselessness, the more likely you are, to be taken serious; indeed ‘more is more’.
So I am seated in the screen room, waiting with such hopefulness at what the plot of the movie will be, what struck me about the movie from the get go, was the excellent picture quality. Apparently the movie producer Judith Audu put in more thought to the movie’s picture than its actual plot structure. First scene and I already know what to expect, I am disappointed, but my writer’s virus will have me seat through the tasteless movie, try as I may, I can’t storm out the screen room in disgruntlement.
So the movie begins with a pimp and his henchman slapping a girl around (Christina Martin), who bears the name Ella in the movie, she is gorgeous and ‘yellow’, beauty according to Nigerian standards is ‘yellow paw paw” and this movie producer doesn’t deviate, I must confess I did find her attractive but her attempt at cowering in that first scene came off as phony, it looked more like a shoulder shrug than an actual shiver of fear. And then the pimp had a ridiculous makeup plastered on his face with an earring attached to his brows, in an attempt to make him look menacing. Watching that earring dangle on his brow did not strike fear in my heart, it made me suppress laughter at every turn in the movie, watching that piece of jewelry hold on to his brow for dear life.
It my opinion the movie’s costuming and makeup was a tad ridiculous, we cannot underestimate the power of proper make up and costume, they have the singular power of inciting the emotions of an audience and driving the plot structure of a story forward. In this case, the movie producer fails in her intent, it is her aim to make some of the characters menacing, for example the character of Gold digger in the movie, is meant to be terrifying but he looks ridiculous as a result of his poor make up and costuming. While we should encounter the character of Gold digger and cower at his ruthless viciousness, we are left not taking him too seriously.
The scene meanders to the beautiful ‘yellow pawpaw’ handed over to a client in the person of the veteran actor Fred Amata, who is Mr Bako in the story. For a veteran, Amata’s brief appearance in that scene comes of as over the top and artificial. After giving her client a night of sexual pleasure, Mr Bako cajoles her to stay back with him all through the weekend as opposed to the arrangement of just one night and promises to give her more money if she changes her mind.
we all know the predictable next scene to unfold, Ella the prostitute, absconds with Mr Bako’s stash of Naira notes in the amount of 3 million. Apart from the predictability of that scene, Amata’s character put in so much effort to look as if he was in deep sleep, let’s not even talk about how ridiculous he appeared, with his exaggerated twists and turns in bed.
Ella steals from her client and escapes the hotel, just in time and she is not caught by her cruel pimp, the producer’s attempt at inducing fist clenching suspense and excitement falls flat. Another scene in the movie that has me shaking my head at its ridiculousness, is the silly attempt at torturing Ella’s room mate Preye (Etinosa Idemudia) to get her to reveal Ella’s whereabouts. The bite by the henchman as a form of torture for the room mate, came off as unnecessary and shouldn’t have been included in that scene in the first place.
Another topsy turvy attempt at creating a twist in the plot development of the story, brings us to the character of Eddie Watson, who is Bassey in the story. He has just had his heart broken, by his singer girl friend Kachi ( Theresa Edem) who abandons him for a wealthier music producer Johnson (Kenneth Okolie). Of courses as expected, when Ella runs away to start a new life, she moves into the same building as the heart broken music producer Basi. While I understand Audu’s attempt at creating coincidences, she doesn’t master it skillfully, thereby making the movie, bland, unexciting and without intrigue.
As is expected with most heros or in this case heroine, she has two side kicks deposited in her life, doey eyed Lekan ( Tomiwa Kukoyi) and nail biting Kosi (Greg Ojefua) while these characters are to come off as clowns and buffoons, to elicit laughter from viewers, I did not find their antics funny. Clearly the plot intent is turned on its head, what should have elicited seriousness and terror, causes laughter and should have elicited laughter, comes off as banal, devoid off the tiniest hint of humor.
The grief stricken music producer is convinced by his very close friend in the story, to act as a judge in a music talent show, of course our heroine is a contestant, there again, Audu’s poor attempt at crafting a coincidence, leaving the audience bored and emotionally unresponsive.
Lets not get started on the ridiculous attempt at creating a talent show in the story, it was quite poor. As expected Ella wins the talent show and later on the love of the heart broken music producer, I have to scratch my head at what awe inspiring performance, did she put up, to have won the talent show. In that movie, Ella can’t sing to save her own life and I had to wince at the vocal assault on my ears while she sang Bibanke as her talent show presentation. This movie is meant to be about finding the power of love through music, sadly there was less connecting by the lovers through music than through Ella constantly going to Bassey’s apartment with cooked food and ‘joos’ as she constantly pronounces it in the movie with a pout of her lips. Audu dumps a short scene of Bassey playing the paino, moaning about his heartbreak in a song, the song is anything but passionate with a bleh! quality.
The producer attempts a twist where Bassey’s wild ex girlfriend Kachi (Theresa Edem) gets her comeuppance, and she experiences grief at the unrepentant cheating of her new boyfriend Johnson in the person of Kenneth Okolie. What gets my hackles rising is when Audu decides to be unpalatably extra by injuring Kachi’s character in a fall. In that scene, Kachi is in conflict with her new producer boyfriend over his latest act of infidelity. In the struggle, she falls and strikes her head on the floor, getting seriously injured enough to suffer amnesia and I watch that scene with incredulity sitting firmly on my shoulders, as I try to reconcile how that poor attempt at a fall could bring about something as serious as an amnesia.
I am equally left disappointed at how Ella is inevitably caught by her pimp, this was one part of the story I assumed would have been the one redeeming factor of the movie’s producer and the laughable fiasco they had spent all that money to produce.
There again we see the haphazard attempt at tying up loose ends, when Gold digger and his ‘dangling brow earrings’ finds Ella, in her new apartment and begins to torture her, she screams at the top of her lungs and her ever present side kick Kosi comes to her rescue by fending off Gold digger and his henchman, in the struggle,Bassey helps Kosi by violently striking Gold digger with a stool conveniently lying around, this kills Gold digger and the earring on his brow is absent, making me think that the earring thankfully detaching itself from his brows is the true cause of death in the movie, because Audu brings our attention to it, by making where the ‘brow ring’ would have been on his face a bloody mess. The movie abruptly ends with the hench man fleeing the scene , Bassey non chalantly calling the police to appraise them of the violent event and later on, Ella and Bassey in a love scene, with her brandishing an engagement ring on her finger.
My verdict; While the movie gets a pass mark for excellent picture quality and audio clarity, it has a cliche title attached to an equally cliche story line, if you will be telling an old story, tell it in a new way. With mediocre acting skills by the performers at best. I am left quite disappointed indeed, in this day, where nollywood movies are getting revolutionalized, this is 10 steps backward and Judith Audu can do better
See Movie Trailer here: