Someone somewhere in Nollywoodland assumed that pairing Toyin Abraham and Odunlade Adekola would make for sensational viewing. They probably fell back on the duo’s recent box office showings as evidence. And they may be right.
Few actors have been as in demand as Abraham has been this year. She has been in good films (Hakkunde), bad ones (Tatu) and borderline terrible ones (Okafor’s Law). She also managed to outdo herself by making money for the partners involved in making and distributing Alakada Reloaded, the latest entry in her profitable franchise.
Odunlade Adekola could have a second career as a reliable meme generator. No one does funny faces or silly poses quite like him and the internet has embraced him without reservation. He was introduced to a bigger audience via an appearance in the 2015 film Oko Ashewo (Taxi Driver) and has dipped in and out of mainstream fare, content with leading the Yoruba branch of the film industry.
Both Abraham and Adekola possess natural comic timing and are never better than when they are selling their physical comic skills in Yoruba speaking films. A lot of people will naturally come to Celebrity Marriage for this stunt casting of both actors as a quarrelsome married couple. They will be sorely disappointed.
Instead of relying on the celebrity of the two stars to carry the film successfully, director Pascal Amanfo, a Nigerian who works predominantly in Ghana, and the three writers who hammer the screenplay together appear to be in a race to determine how many characters they can introduce onscreen before the film’s running time comes to an end.
Characters are pulled out of nowhere. Some crawl out of the woodwork, others are parachuted in spontaneously. None of them is developed, few genuinely have anything to contribute beyond posting screen time and exasperating audiences curious enough to show an interest in how the film resolves.
And to see Celebrity Marriage to its noisy, clattering, jumbled conclusion is to demonstrate almost superhuman levels of patience. Or self-flagellation. For what else could be worse than watching Tonto Dikeh constantly mistake screaming herself hoarse for emoting? Perhaps the final 30 minutes of Moses Inwang’s Alter Ego? It is a close call.
Everything about Celebrity Marriage is inexplicably set up to frustrate. The first culprit is the narrator, an unseen- thank goodness!- cloying presence who comes from the tradition of trashy blogs and whose presence possesses neither rhyme nor reason. She abandons her duties midway only to show up at the end to continue her quest to drive her audience crazy.
Celebrity Marriage attempts to do something significant; show the underbelly of the celebrity culture but it stumbles on itself so badly at multiple turns that it becomes hard to forgive. The few minutes of genuine comedy simply do not suffice.
Rita (Abraham) is a mega star married to Farouk (Adekola), an insecure, violent creep. Because she loves him and is intent on proving a point to her fans- that celebrities can get married and stay married- she sticks around, condoning his behavior and gifting the audience with uncomfortable stretches of dialogue where she is obviously struggling to keep up with the screenplay’s word heavy passages. Adekola fares better, but only slightly as both actors have actually been set up to fail. Not that either of them can recognize this. The domestic affair issue is handled so tactlessly and unintelligently that the film at sometimes plays like a full-on endorsement of wife battery.
This story arc is competing with about a dozen more. Sub-plots differing in tone and sensibility that they may as well be different films, jumbled together to make for one messy pile.
Rita’s close friend, Victoria Adams (Jackie Appiah), is also an actress, one with sexual appetites that would put several cheating spouses to shame. While hubby is on assignment out of the country- he is a footballer- Victoria paints the town red with her various sexcapades. In a bold twist, one of her entanglements happens to be with a person of the same sex but Celebrity Marriage has neither the balls nor capacity to deal sensitively and so just throws it up for cheap theatrics.
Tonto Dikeh, who was recently embroiled in domestic issues of her own, and making a return to the big screen, is cast as Stephanie, an actress who isn’t quite acting. Art mirrors life here and Ms Dikeh is just as bad as you remembered. The material which is regular Asaba fare, never for once rises above cheap dramatization. She’s at home in it.
We meet Stephanie as she settles into domestic bliss. Her marriage is merely for show as she carries on a torrid affair with Mr Gabriel, a relative of her hubby and financier of films by nubile actresses. Mr Gabriel is the quintessential dirty old man and Kanayo O Kanayo brings a welcome dash of realness to that contrasts with all the camp flying around. Indeed he is the only one doing any sustained form of acting here.
More characters are introduced, each one superfluous to the narrative. Mr Gabriel has a daughter who is married to one Lotanna who is cast in Rita’s new film, financed by Victoria, from funds gotten from Mr Gabriel. There is an entire flat of wannabe actresses who sleep with each other and with every other person that will give them a leg up in the industry.
Amanfo’s direction is self-aware yet nonexistent. Sound is wobbly and goes on like so for long stretches. The colors are striking but end up coming off as garish, especially when matched with the hair and makeup team who appear to be doing the most at making the actresses pop. Hint: they don’t. Actresses may be cash strapped but who said they all had to have zero taste? Almost no one comes out of this film looking good.
The writer tweets from @drwill20