The Many Problems of the Glamour Girls Remake
As far as movie remakes go, opinion is divided. On one extreme, there are many who hold the movies they love with so much reverence and consider them untouchable, such that they would think it a sacrilege for anyone to attempt a remake or a reboot. I’ll go out on a limb to venture that those who love movie remakes must be necessarily fewer in number than those who do even as I consider myself to be in the middle. If the original movie can be made ‘better’, its technical quality improved upon or if a remake would refresh fans and even garner new fans in the process, why not?!
As it concerns Nollywood, remaking some of its old classics isn’t entirely a bad idea. For one thing, it could help to refresh the story and nostalgia, gain some new fans, and make money for everyone involved which isn’t so bad. Equally important, if not more so, remakes could help to improve old Nollywood’s technical quality. Early Nollywood movies were mostly produced on VHS tapes and even the transition to VCDs and DVDs doesn’t compare to the quality and money that’s now available. The situation is not helped by the non-availability of functional or adequate archives: From broadcasting to filmmaking, archiving and the maintenance of archives aren’t Nigeria’s strongest suit. In fact, you would likely find a better-preserved cache of old Nollywood movies outside of Nigeria.
So, bearing the above in mind, it made perfect sense, economic and artistic for producers to embrace the remaking of selected Nollywood classics which seemed to be going well with these results: Living in Bondage-Breaking Free (directed by Ramsey Nouah, 2019), Rattlesnake-The Ahanna Story (directed by Ramsey Nouah, 2020) and Nneka the Pretty Serpent (directed by Tosin Igho, Zeb Ejiro, 2020,). All three movies were well received as shown especially by awards. The most recent being Rattlesnake winning 5 awards at the 2022 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, AMVCA: Best Actress (Osas Ighodaro), Best Actor (Stan Nze), Best Director (Ramsey Nouah), Best Lighting Designer (Mathew Yusuf) and best Cinematographer (Muhammed Atta Ahmed). This relatively long introduction is to help explain why I waited for the remake of Glamour Girls with bated breath. It may also help explain my disappointment which has been hard to shake off. Glamour Girls directed by Bunmi Ajakaiye premiered on Netflix, June 24, 2022. The original Glamour Girls (1) released in 1994 was directed by Chika Onukwufor, and written, produced by Kenneth Nnebue, while Glamour Girls 2, directed by Christian Onu, produced by Kenneth Nnebue, was released in 1996.
This review will attempt to examine whether the new Glamour Girls succeeds in its efforts as a remake of the 1994 classic. Even though I’m not privy to its producers’ intentions, I imagine that there are usually pressing reasons people embark on remaking a film. I also imagine that one those reasons would be to improve on the old movie. So, whatever those reasons were in the case of the new Glamour Girls, were they achieved? In other words, as a remake, is the new Glamour Girls a ‘Yay’ or a ‘Nay’? Or do you feel like screaming at its producers in Pidgin English: ‘Who sen you? Who beg you?’ Even if we choose to look at the new Glamour Girls not as a remake but on its own steam as a movie, does that work better?
To do all of the above, we must first revisit the 1994 Glamour Girls. Its story, especially Glamour Girls 1 is simple and easy to follow: Sandra (Jennifer Okere Emeka-Ossai) travels to the city in search of a job through the help of her friend Doris (Gloria Anozie Young) her old schoolmate who’s doing much better than her. Doris has help from the rich men who sponsor her lifestyle in exchange for payment in kind. Sandra soon becomes one of the “senior girls,” after Doris introduces her to Chief Esiri (Peter Bunor) who sets her up in plush accommodations, opens a thriving store for her, etc. They don’t live happily ever after because Sandra falls into the traps of a younger man Dennis (Pat Attah) who scams her out of millions of naira. Jane (Liz Benson) is another of the senior girls. In her case, she has the perfect man, Desmond (Sola Fosudo), who is willing to overlook her past as a sex worker. Despite picking her up by the roadside, and despite the tattling of her stepmother, Desmond is keen on marrying Jane. Again, that also doesn’t end well as Jane also falls for another sweet mouth con man who she ends up shooting and is then arrested. The other senior girls Thelma (Ngozi Ikpelue/Ezeonu) and Doris were lucky not to suffer any misfortune. The only other notable character in Glamour Girls 1 is Helen (Barbara Odoh) who combines prostitution with blackmailing her male clients. Much of this story is Glamour Girls 1 because Glamour Girls 2 goes off on a different tangent which I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that by Glamour Girls 2, some of the story moves to Italy, newer characters like Anita (Eucharia Anunobi), Fred (Zachee Orji) and Jessy (Tina Anuziam) are introduced. Still, as was the norm at the time, Glamour Girls 1 & 2 followed the predictable pattern of punishing bad behaviour.
Now we come to the 2022 Glamour Girls (directed by Bunmi Ajakaiye). Certain things are constant: sex is still the currency of exchange. Women, mostly young, sell sex to much older, often married, and wealthy men. In this story, Donna (Nse Ikpe-Etim) is the Madam who pimps girls to her clients while hiding under the cover of an interior designer company. The character closest to Sandra’s (Jennifer Okere) in the old Glamour Girls is Emmanuella/Emma (Sharon Ooja). She’s the poor uncultured girl looking for a break. Although unlike Sandra, Emmanuella was already selling her body as a stripper before seeking out Donna after getting kicked out because she was framed for stealing a client’s ring. Emmanuella who’s rechristened Emma is cleaned up by Donna’s Man Friday Tommy (Temisan Emmanuel) on Donna’s orders and supplied at the party where she meets ‘Sheggy’ Segun (Femi Branch). Also keeping with the old Glamour Girls, Donna has a younger toyboy husband, same as Doris (Gloria Anozie Young) in Glamour Girls 1 who was married to Daniel (Ernest Obi). Louise ‘Lulu’ (Toke Makinwa) who’s sponsoring husband, Aaron’s (Uzor Arikwe) life abroad is one of Donna’s girls. Jemma (Joselyn Dumas) is a retired glamour girl who is forced to return due to financial hardship brought on by her husband’s illness. Her husband Desmond is on life support.
Speaking of which, there’s a Desmond (Sola Fosudo) in Glamour Girls 1 who is still bed ridden by the end of the film. Is Jemma’s husband a new Desmond? Anyway, in keeping up with the classic, the women in this new Glamour Girls suffer varying consequences for their choices. But the plot is anything but simple like older movie. Old Nollywood can be accused of many things, but the viewer could follow the story. Yes, the movies were sometimes dismissed for being too predictable, but there was an effort to deliver simple stories. And as many are now discovering, predictability does have its advantages.
The first half of the 2-hour movie can pass for what Netflix calls ‘casual viewing’ albeit with some nagging questions. In the first one hour of the movie, we have been introduced to almost all the characters. A few minutes after, it’s now six months later. The story begins to disintegrate from hereon. It does appear as if someone cut out a chunk of the story which would’ve perhaps explained certain things better, but all the viewer is left with is a gaping hole and questions as to what happened six months prior. All of a sudden or so it seems, Emma is now all polished having supposedly spent some time in a finishing school, done a 2-month course in finance which leads her sugar daddy Segun to recommend her to Amos Idibia (Victor Eriabe-his name is misspelt as Erebebe in the credits) the MD of a bank where Sheggy has ‘billions of naira. This is also the time we discover that Lulu has two daughters yet there’s been no indication of her having even a pet dog, not when she was video calling her husband or chatting with Donna. These hitherto unacknowledged kids become the excuse for a birthday party that seems staged for Lulu’s husband, Aaron to notice her man friend Fadi (Cesar Obayan). The only other time they are seen is when Aaron is returning abroad and threatening his wife for child support: ‘If you don’t pay me child support, I’ll tell the whole world what I saw’ or words to that effect. The viewer has no idea as to what tipped Aaron off when he visited his wife’s shop. Perhaps, that bit may have been cut out.
In the new Glamour Girls, almost every significant character has a different storyline that doesn’t always link to whatever the original plot is. Helion ‘Hell’ (Segylola Ogidan) is a rich kid drug addict who’s into prostitution for fun. She discovers she’s pregnant and understandably doesn’t know the man responsible, and she later dies of an overdose. This is important because? More importantly, how is this related to the old Glamour Girls? Jemma (Joselyn Dumas) has been hyped as the queen of them all, but she’s forced by the circumstances to return to the trade. She meets and falls in love with Alexander (Chukie ‘Lynxxx’ Edozien) who’s the accountant to Chief Nkem (Ejike Asiegbu) and his billionaire friends. A quick fun fact: Joselyn Dumas was the video vixen in Lynxxx’ 2012 song ‘Fine Lady.’ Mind you, falling in love was what got Jemma disowned by Donna in the first instance because apparently, she broke the unwritten rule by falling in love with one of her clients, Desmond. Jemma was hyped as this goddess who had African heads of states wrapped round her pinkie.
However, this was the end of that strand because as soon as Jemma returned, none of the old clients approach her, not even Chief Nkem who we were made to believe had been pining for Jemma. So, she makes a comeback, falls in love, pulls the plug on her husband’s life support, all in quick succession. Then of all outcomes, it turns out that Alexander had been molesting her son Ese (Prince Buchi Unigwe) who’d been acting withdrawn. Never mind the fact that the boy was never outgoing and was never not withdrawn. Suspense (or suspension of disbelief) is great but to throw in Alexander as a child molester when the viewer had not really seen him with the boy together alone is a thin stretch. One is almost tempted to ask if we’re still talking about Glamour Girls or some NGO project. It’s okay to not use one film to (or attempt to) address every conceivable societal issue.
It’s often difficult to follow the story Bunmi Ajakaiye’s Glamour Girls is telling. Rendering the viewer as someone in a maze, a good example of ‘I pass here, no way’, each time you think you’ve cracked it, the connection is lost. At some point, the viewer’s interest is piqued with the surprise development that Lulu’s husband is in Lagos and on his way home from the airport to Lulu’s utter shock. Perhaps he’ll catch her red handed? Whosai? What happens next isn’t her narrowly missing being caught or anything that heady. We just don’t see him until another night, many scenes later as she hurries to one of her rendezvous under the pretext of going to work on a difficult bride’s gown. In fact, Aaron is a glorified mascot, brought out only when necessary. That they are a family is never established: How did he relate with his daughters, his wife, did he have friends or family?
The foregoing notwithstanding, the fact that the Glamour Girls remake doesn’t advance or enhance women’s agency is what’s most surprising. In the 1994 Glamour Girls, for what it was worth, some of the women had real power and appeared to be living life on their own terms. Yes, they got punished the way Nollywood likes to do which was worse in the early days. How then is it that in the 2022 Glamour Girls, the all-powerful and connected Donna is running scared because of a crime she hasn’t committed? I abhor violence but if the women of 1994/1996 Glamour Girls could shoot men dead, why are 2022 glamour girls all bark and no bite? Well, with the exception of Jemma who kills Alexander, runs away and leaves the other girls afraid for their lives.
It’s also not clear what the brief appearance of characters Doris (Gloria Anozie Young) and Thelma (Dolly Unachukwu) from the old Glamour Girls (1&2) is meant to achieve. That’s a real head scratcher. Were they supposed to be scary? Why, because they’re in Lebanon? It doesn’t help that they’re sprung on the viewer with no context. Who are they and why did Donna think they could be of help? Anyway, in the end, like many of the other ideas, it’s a no-show. I know many arty film critics do not like questions about the lessons or the moral of movies but whether we like it or not, there are more Nigerians who expect movies to have a point, a raison d’etre if you will. Emmanuella succeeds because of her sugar daddy. Even at the end when it looks like she’s putting herself first, what else can she fall back on, her 2-month finance course? Donna is supposedly rich, but she really has no life. Did Lulu live to fight another day? What was the point?
It’s really beginning to sound like I could go on…and on… but I’m going to resist the temptation to continue griping. Perhaps, my disappointment is because I did have such high expectations for the 2022 Glamour Girls. I was looking forward to a 21st century take on Glamour Girls but ended up with a mish mash of cut and paste ideas. Be that as it may, Sharon Ooja Egwurube’s performance as Emmanuella is my one highlight in the movie.