Just in time for the festive season, Ufuoma McDermott jumps into the actress/producer/director fray with her first film in at least two of those capacities. To make her entry into the director’s seat, M Dermott, an underutilized actress who has dazzled on television (My Mum and I,) stage (Hear Word,) and screen (Okafor’s Law,) has chosen Christmas is Coming, an upbeat, Lagos set romantic comedy about spreading good cheer and finding love in the strangest places.
Should be easy enough to pull off right?
McDermott only succeeds in the sense that having scaled through the rigors of production, with a finished product to her name, she can at least boast of being a filmmaker now, seeing as producing anything these days, is a hard tasking, potentially unrewarding undertaking.
Beyond that, Christmas is Coming is a contrived, poorly aimed stab at capitalizing on the extra wadded wallets and willingness to chase feel good movies that is atypical of the Christmas holidays. McDermott does not just star and direct, she also conceived the story and penned the screenplay about a working-class lady, Henri whose flat mates, Avia (Mary Lazarus) and Nene (Izzie Otaigbe), fed up with her tomboyish nature, decide to stage a costly intervention.
Christmas is Coming announces itself almost from the beginning. And viewers would be wise to take heed. After a promising day at work, one involving the temporary vanquishing of her nemesis, Lola, (a haughty Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha,) Henri is in a celebratory mood. Her friends pull a very expensive prank and send her off to work the very next day, as unprepared as one can get, for an important pitch to her company’s most important clients.
It is hard to take the film seriously from the early scenes where Henri in conversation with her classmates, repeatedly refers to her total lack of feminine wiles as her ‘’tomboy culture.’’ As if any nonconforming lady anywhere in the world would refer to this important part of her being, as a culture. Ufuoma McDermott doesn’t get it obviously. And how can she? When her film, with the half-baked dialogue and bizarre scenarios plays like it was hurriedly shot at some point somewhere between treatment and first draft.
Nothing is believable, not a damn thing. Certainly not the plot, a wild good chase that oscillates erratically between fantasia and fatuousness. Thanks to her friends, Henri has the worst day at work but she forgives them easily, because the show must go on. Henri and Lola both take unprofessionalism in the work place to new depths but nothing serious comes out of it. The show must go on.
McDermott- and her film- is far from interested in pursuing these potentially ugly outcomes to a logical conclusion, seeking instead to take advantage of audience need for a happy, soppy romantic ending. One where girl meets boy, and they both set sail into the good night, singing Christmas carols and making merry.
The acting doesn’t work either, especially with McDermott directing herself in just about every single scene. Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, Deyemi Okanlawon as Henri’s client turned love interest and Zack Orji as her father, a retired General, only just manage to rise above their peers. Don’t consider this high praise though.
The bar is set really, really low.
For all of her terrible behavior at work, Ufuoma McDermott the director, rewards Ufuoma McDermott the actor, with a strapping love interest, Koko Williams (Deyemi Okanlawon) and she does not let a tiny detail such as nonexistent chemistry get in the way of her cheer filled fantasy. It is Christmas after all, and there is no finer time to fall in love.
And so viewers must follow Henri and her gang to a Christmas day family lunch where food is served and devoured, secrets are revealed, old ghosts are laid to rest, and Henri’s ‘’tomboy culture’’ is never mentioned again. Because along the way, the love of a good man must have helped her get in touch with her more feminine side. Or maybe, McDermott didn’t think it important anymore, having served its purpose in getting the story from point A to point C.
So much for continuity.
So much for good taste.
With Yuletide entertainment such as this, who can blame The Grinch for stealing Christmas?
The writer tweets from @drwill20