The Honourable Desmond Elliot representing Surulere constituency in the Lagos state House of Assembly makes the time from his no doubt busy schedule to direct Hire a man, a colourful ensemble romantic comedy starring Zynell Zuh, Enyinna Nwigwe, Nancy Isime, Shaffy Bello and Keppy Ekpeyong Bassey.
There is a reason romantic comedies are dismissed as chick flicks and every one of them needs a heroine. In today’s Nollywood, such a lady has to be pretty as a picture, the lighter skinned the better and able to charm (not necessarily act) her way through a two hour picture. She must embody the childhood dreams and adult aspirations of every person who ever imagined a better life (Read: happily ever after) for themselves and must be seen having a lot of fun while struggling through the process of picking out and staying with Mr Right.
For Hire a Man, Ghanaian crossover actress Zynell Zuh (When Love Comes Around) tries her best to sustain audience interest as Tishe, a spoilt rich kid, dangerously close to her 30th birthday, successful in her career (she’s a high flying accountant) and boasting a dependable support system (she’s best friends with Bayray Mcnwizu’s fun, giggly straight shooter Sonnia).
In the environment that we find ourselves, all of these achievements of course mean nothing without a man to share them with. So, after a disturbing telephone exchange with her mother (Shaffy Bello), Tishe puts her foot in her mouth and makes a boast she is incapable of following through.
Her younger, skinnier, prettier, more confident sister, Tinu (Nancy Isime), has just announced her wedding engagement. Tishe, tensioned thoroughly and still under the thrall of a sinister childhood rivalry with her younger sister promises her surprised but relieved mother that she would also be showing up at the upcoming annual family retreat with a fiancé of her own. Faced with her younger sister Tinu getting the better of her even as she lives to tell the tale, Tishe does the unthinkable, she hires a man for the period. The stage is then set for a show down of epic familial proportions.
Hire a Man breaks from cookie cutter romantic comedy tropes by presenting the stories of two independent, driven and focused ladies in the lead roles. They may have been conditioned by society to go to extreme lengths to blend in but they retain their core no bull shit taking persons within. A fine example can be seen with Tishe’s default shabby treatment of her male escort, Jeff (a now dependable Enyinna Nwigwe). Another occurs in a scene where Tinu has finally had enough and tells her tormentor exactly where to shove it instead of falling for some cheap guilt trip. Both ladies are successful and independent, but do they really have to be such nasty pieces of work?
Not exactly landmark stuff but the politics of Hire a Man tries at least to be refreshing even though at the end, it mixes it all up by going for low hanging, predictable, if crowd pleasing resolutions. Nwigwe’s Jeff seems out to prove something, but does not eventually as the only reason Tishe makes her final decision so, is the same one he’s supposedly running away from.
With the screenplay credited to a faceless collective, Writers Ink, Hire a Man shows some refreshing group think in its outcomes. The screenplay is breezy, aided by pretty nature inclined locations and the writing works really well, rising to some applause worthy occasions, especially with the dialogue and a couple of set pieces.
Which is not to say that Hire a Man is anywhere near perfection. Truth be told, it is quite far from it. If you can forgive the overreaching accents flying left, right and centre, the lets-just-get-with-the-program acting from everyone else aside Nwigwe, the excessive length of the film, the plummets into senseless hysteria, and the plot gaps Hire a Man does boast some rewarding moments.
The comedy aspect of the film is lively and the set pieces fall into places quite easily, except when they don’t. In which case, there is some effort to keep things lively. Mr Elliot’s directing is rote, he does not have much to offer in terms of technical skill but the screenplay is fun and the actors appear to be enjoying themselves. The product placement, especially by the resort centre where much of the movie is set is tastefully done too.
Hire a Man (released 10th of February in cinemas) just wants to entertain you and elicit a laugh or too, and maybe sell the idea of a destination get away too. Can’t say it doesn’t do all three eventually.