Glamour Girls: Beyond the Critique and the Future of Reboot in Nollywood
Remaking a household classic can either be a hit or a complete miss. Often, it is the latter because the producers never stay true to the original, include head-scratching plots, hand-pick a cast with subpar acting abilities and are never innovative enough to make their remake a unique body of work.
When Play Network Studios announced that the 1994 Nollywood flick Glamour Girls was getting a reboot in 2022, it wagged tongues and raised eyebrows. Many wondered if the studio would be able to live up to the expectations already heaped upon their heads. Trepidation simmered because, over the years, the Nigerian movie industry has been doing exceptionally well, reinventing itself to be able to stand toe to toe with its Hollywood and Bollywood counterparts. Credit should be given to the thriller Blood Sisters, the comedy Breaded Life, and the religious-drama The Man of God. Nollywood back then is not the same as Nollywood now, and Nigerians expected this mentality to be incorporated into Glamour Girls but, sadly, that was not the case.
Glamour Girls takes viewers behind the scenes of the lives of high-end escorts as they hustle their way up the Nigerian social ladder. There is the commander-in chief of the escorts, Donna, who spends more time setting up her girls with rich, powerful men than she does staying home and caring for her doting husband. Emma is a stripper turned escort whose greed almost leads to her downfall. Lulu is a designer who finesses rich men of their money and sends it to her husband abroad. Jemma is a former escort who returns to the lifestyle due to financial difficulties, and Hell is a trust-fund baby and drug addict that sees escorting as nothing more than a pleasure-seeking agenda. Their already interwoven lives are rocked by a sudden murder, a salacious scandal, and an ultimate betrayal. As they navigate their way through the stormy weather of opulence and escorting, they discover what is truly important in their lives.
The film received mostly negative reviews. The backlash was so great that the founder of Play Network Studios, Charles Okpaleke addressed and acknowledged the criticism, promising to do better. Here are some things that Nigerians and movie critics faulted:
- The storyline: Viewers had a hard time navigating the actual plot of the entire film. Why? Because the sub-plots overshadowed it. Typically, sub-plots are added to key into the main plot so that the latter can have meaning, but Jemma, Emma, Lulu, and Hell’s backstories (the sub-plots) were so loosely placed and unorganized that many wondered if the film had creative direction. They weren’t “tied in” properly with the plot to give the film a befitting climax. There were also a lot of questions that were left unanswered (maybe they would be answered if a second movie sees the light of day). Where did Lulu run off to? Why did Emma and Zeribe betray each other despite being madly in love? How did Emma suddenly develop a faux British accent after spending six months abroad and taking a two months course in Ireland? Why did Donna initially run to her sugar daddy’s wife when she needed help when they clearly hated each other? Where did Alexander’s body end up in? What was the rationale behind adding a murder twist at the last minute?
- Genre bender? A question that seemed to be at the top of everyone’s lips was: What exactly is the genre of the movie? It is hardly a surprising question seeing as the plot was all over the place. Is it a drama? Is it a murder mystery? Is it a thriller? Is it a comedy? So many questions and so few answers.
- Less than stellar acting: Considering a good chunk of the actors in the film are Nollywood’s finest, capable of delivering gripping and award-winning performances, many were left disappointed by how amateur the acting was. Of course, the blame for the actors’ performance fell on the scriptwriters which, again, is not surprising because if the plot was not understandable, how were the actors supposed to give their best? They aren’t Joaquin Phoenix or Rebel Wilson, capable of doing improvisation acting without batting an eyelash. The line delivery was poor, the dialogue seemed forced and the chemistry between some of the characters was a little off. Be that as it may, praises should be given to Nse Ikpe Etim (Donna) for delivering an award-winning performance despite all odds and Sharon Ooja (Emma) for carrying the rags to riches story effectively, at least for the first half of the film. Her acting skills declined once her character arrived from abroad six months later.
- Character development: The film started with Emma’s life as a stripper then it quickly shifted to Donna who runs a high-end escort agency. Who exactly is the protagonist? Are the two women the protagonists? It was hard to tell because of the film’s start, its sudden shift to Donna’s life, and the sudden shift again to Emma’s life after an hour plus into screen time.
Assuming they were both the protagonists, many felt that their characters had no proper development. It was hard to tell if Donna was a witch, a saint, or both and it was hard to tell if Emma was real or fake due to her sudden British accent.
It is very hard to find a positive review of the film due to its highlighted faults, which are not unfounded. Nonetheless, there are still good aspects of the movie which were crowded by the bad eggs.
The funny thing about criticism is its flipside effect, though. The more people rave about how bad a film is, the more the streams and downloads. Glamour Girls was the number one Netflix film in Nigeria for a few weeks and trended in the Top 10 global categories following its premiere, hitting countries like South Africa, Kenya, Venezuela, Belgium, Panama, and Nicaragua. It was also a hot topic on Twitter, trending with the hashtag #GlamourGirls less than twenty-four hours after its release. Though no data is currently available, it would not be surprising to see Netflix proudly state that the film has garnered over fifty million streams. Not bad for a film that “lacks an actual plot.”
While it may be said that numbers do not matter and should not in any way whatsoever replace a solid plot, great acting and, progressive character development, numbers and buzz are two of the greatest propellers that push people to actually stream a film.
Another propeller is a star-studded cast (they have been mentioned above). Nse Ikpe-Etim portrayed Donna so well that she embodied the character, from her million-dollar wigs to her Gucci shoes. Out of all the characters, Donna has to be the most interesting and complex. She is portrayed as a woman with a tough-as- nails personality, capable of destroying anyone who gets in her way. As the film progresses, viewers come to the realization (at least those who looked beyond the distracting opulence and razzle-dazzle of the film’s aesthetics), that layered underneath the cold persona is a woman with a heart. She was willing to go above and beyond for her girls when they were getting harassed because of missing funds. She forgave Jemma (in her own way) after she betrayed her to live a mundane life. She helped Jemma get rid of Alexander’s body and facilitated her fleeing to another country with her son so she wouldn’t be killed by the “big men who needed their money.” Though the friendship between the two women was not fully explored, kudos to the filmmakers for facilitating their reconciliation after a decade at war.
The intent of the film, though poorly delivered, is to highlight the importance of female empowerment. Yes, the film is about glorified prostitution, but looking beyond that is a tale of women who are just trying to “hustle” and survive in a world that prioritizes material wealth and success over anything. You are only as good as your money’s worth which is why everyone, from Donna to Lulu, tried to make it in the Nigerian version of Tinsel town. Emma, seeing an opportunity to become rich after losing her job, set aside her already wounded pride and begged Donna on her knees for a spot in her agency. Her case was quite sad because she had an uncaring mother and two younger mouths to feed. She was the sole breadwinner in her family and did what she had to as a provider. Jemma swore on her life that she would never return to escorting but did anyway because she needed money to take care of her son and ailing husband. Lulu was also in the same boat as Emma seeing as she had two children to feed and an additional child in the form of a husband who lived abroad and to whom she regularly sent money. She used escorting to take care of her family and her boutique. Nigerians should not hate the players, instead, hate the game.
Flowing from the above, the lessons the film taught seemed to have gone over viewers’ heads. For decades, Nollywood has taught its patrons one or two life lessons, and people still cherish some of them to date. This is no exception. The people’s court on the internet highlighted a few things they learned:
- You can rise and thrive above challenges.
- Your sordid past/background does not determine your present or future.
- Loyalty is one of the qualities needed to be successful in life.
- Drug dependency is a death sentence.
- In order to make it to the top, you have to put in the work.
Glamour Girls may have gotten a lot of things wrong, but the one thing it did get right was the aesthetics. Even critics refused to deny how excellent the cinematography was. The picture quality was beyond HD and the visual elements, from the outlandish locations to the million-dollar wardrobes, looked like something straight out of a Hollywood film. It is one of the best visually-stimulating films to hit the Nigerian market in decades.
Worthy of note is the subtle tribute to the original film. Donna, in her search for assistance and in a bid to save her own skin, travelled to Lebanon to meet two members of the original Glamour Girls. This was definitely one of the major highlights of the film because those who watched the original film relished in a basket full of nostalgia. The scene brought back a lot of fond memories.
Should Nollywood venture into remaking classics? No. Should they focus on original scripts instead? Yes, because they have recently started excelling in this aspect. Glamour Girls has so much potential, but the glaring lapses regrettably overshadowed that. This, however, does not mean that the film is a complete waste of two hours as critics have said.
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Run-time: 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 38 seconds
Director: Bunmi Adesoye
Cast: Nse Ikpe-Etim, Sharon Ooja, Joselyn Dumas, Toke Makinwa, Segilola Ogidan and Chukie Edozien