BY ANDREW OKE
Nollywood in 2017 is not exactly getting off to a blistering start. So far, there has not been much on offer in the form of watchable, entertaining films at the cinemas; just one disappointing misstep after another. The Desmond Elliot-directed Hire a Man is one of such missteps in the false start Nollywood has offered so far in 2017.
Centred around an age-old rivalry between two sisters (portrayed in a god-awful animated montage), the film follows the older sister, Tishe (Zynnell Zuh); a single and very high strung account executive at an oil company who wants nothing more than to finally get one over her little sister, Teni (Nancy Isime) who seems to always have the upper hand in their little rivalry. Things get complicated for Tishe when she finds out from her mother that Teni is engaged and is bringing her fiancé over for a family vacation, so Tishe decides to do what any clichéd, poorly developed, one-dimensional female romantic comedy lead would do in that situation; she lies to her mother and says that she too is engaged. Now that Tishe has dug a pit for herself and in order for her to avoid being clothed in shame and reproach, she must… hire a man to keep up appearances and prove to her sister that she too can get a man (even though she can’t). Tishe then enlists the help of her co-worker/best friend, Sonia (Bayray McNwizu) to rent a guy to take to her family vacation and after yet another horrible montage (thankfully this one wasn’t animated), Tishe decides to lease a dude by the name of Jeff (Enyinna Nwigwe) who she believes is squatting with her neighbour from across the street.
The story, no matter how predictable, still leaves a lot of space for comedy. Someone should have passed that message across to the Desmond Elliot and the screenwriter as they left that space completely vacant. In a side note, the film’s screenwriter is credited as “Writer’s Ink” which leads me to infer that the screenwriter knew he/she was writing a dumpster fire of a movie and decided to use that credit as a back door for plausible deniability. Either that or “Writer’s Ink” is a screenwriting collective that doesn’t realise it has come up with this dumpster fire, much like “The Insomniacs” and other collectives that are killing the Nigerian film industry.
The film is an assembly line of one poorly done rom-com cliché after another. The uptight corporate lady who hasn’t had enough time to have a reasonable relationship; the two attractive people who hate each other at first, but we know will eventually fall in love even though they have zero chemistry and honestly don’t even know each other all that well; the forced external conflict that forces them to get in a fight at the tail end of the second act.
Hire a Man does not even make an attempt to be funny, clever or, dare I say, good. There is very little right with this film, and that is its biggest problem; almost every single component of this film is put together poorly. It looks like the work of an amateur filmmaker who borrowed all of his ideas from films made by more competent hands, but had no idea how to execute these ideas or put them together to make a film that does not induce self-loathing from a paying audience. Desmond Elliot once again proves that his place should be in front of a camera and not behind it. Before going in to see this film, I would have bet a million Naira that Desmond Elliot couldn’t possibly make a film worse than 2014’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t make that bet. Every shot, every line of dialogue, almost every acting performance is unbelievably bad.
Speaking of acting, special attention must be given to whatever it is Zynnell Zuh was doing, because I’m not exactly sure one can call that acting. To put it plainly, her performance was atrocious. She has to be one of the worst actors working in the Ghanaian and Nigerian film industries today. She says her lines in the movie like a bimbo who was looking to read a gossip magazine, but mistakenly picked up Gray’s Anatomy. She lacks the ability to convey any form of genuine emotion without raising her voice or gesticulating wildly and her facial expressions range from constipated to “did I leave the kettle on?” Zynnell Zuh has the acting ability of derailed train and is more suited to being an Instagram model than an actor. The fact that she was cast as the lead in this film is a testament to how clueless Desmond Elliot is when it comes to good filmmaking.
In its trailer, Hire a Man refers to itself as the “Best romantic comedy ever” which says a lot about the taste, or lack thereof, of everyone involved behind the scenes in making this film. To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rubbish knows nothing higher than itself.
Zynnell Zuh – Tishe
Nancy Isime – Teni
Enyinna Nwigwe – Jeff
IK Ogbonna – Benjamin
Bayray McNwizu – Sonia
Shaffy Bello – Tishe & Teni’s Mother
Keppy Ekpeyong Bassey – Tishe & Teni’s Father
Chinneylove Eze – Story
Writer’s Ink – Screenplay