“Where two or three women are gathered, there is war.”
I was not sure how to react to this statement from the 2017 Blessing Egbe film, The Women. I still am unsure. Perhaps it is because we have only just celebrated the International Day of the Girl, and I am still wondering why women would do this to themselves, or maybe because I just ate lunch and my tummy is turning.
There are a lot of disparaging statements about the target gender made in this film, many that help corroborate the one-sided story about women that misogynists have peddled for ages. Women are gold diggers- check. Women are not loyal- check. What is food? Calabar women live on sex- check. Women are liars – check. Women are arrogant the moment they begin to earn their own money- check. Women will do anything for money – check. Women are airheaded materialistic jealous people who will jump on any opportunity to pull down other women – check, check, check. With a movie that does all these, you almost cannot but question the point of it.
Four women, Omoh (Ufuoma McDermott), Ene (Kate Henshaw), Teni (Omoni Oboli) and Rose (Katherine Obiang) are friends, or claim to be. Omoh invites the other three women and their husbands to her fortieth birthday coming up during the weekend. She would lodge them in a hotel and they would celebrate through the night. This is the plan. However their imperfect marriages and leaky mouths come in the way of things. Omoh , whose husband Maro (Anthony Manjaro) is going through a financial hard time, has an affair with Teni’s husband, Bez (Kalu Ikeagwu), who gives her money for the event and expensive gifts as well. Teni is not stupid, and so she does her research to confirm her suspicion.
Rose and Ayo (Femi Branch) quarrel over sex. She feels deprived; he feels her needs are immaterial. Ene is married to rich slobby Chuby (Gregory Ojefua). She is neither in love with him nor satisfied by him, so she makes do with their butler, John, who comes out to play when the cat is away.
At the hotel, they run into Gift, a model who has come for a photo shoot, and who seems to have had history with Maro, a history we know nothing of. This is the root of the many other confrontations that begin to take place and bring the party to an untimely close.
Apart from the story being far from original, the execution is nothing special, despite the impressive casting of big names that grace the film. Or maybe the fault is the writer’s and director’s, who do not seem to have dug deep enough to harness the skill and experience that each actor possesses. They mostly perform the way a thousand others have, or will in the same circumstances. Their dialogue falls flat to the ground, and there is that “I can explain” line here again, peeking and summoning us to slap its timeworn face. There is also the classic lip-licking to show attraction that just irks to kingdom come.
The women are portrayed as rich and well-to-do, but their appearances tell a different story. The makeup is anything but professional, and their dresses seem like something from a fairly-used bale. For women in their forties, it is okay to assume that they have been married for at least ten years and have relatively grown children, if they have children at all. But they behave as though they all just got married and that their problems are new. Ayo, for example, who complains about his wife Rose says he was warned against marrying women from her tribe with their insatiable libido. He sounds surprised by her requests (which shouldn’t seem so surprising after all these years), as do the other men. Subtitles are also missing in a number of places where English isn’t spoken.
The music at the beginning is beautiful. Cinematography is too. There are acting moments that really stand out, like Oboli’s outburst scene when her character’s secrets have been revealed to her husband and they stand at opposite sides of a door. She is so believable, you want to stand and give her a round of applause. On the flip side is the performance of the lady who plays Gift, which is fake and forced.
The Women makes you laugh in places. However, the story is jaw-dropping-ly cliché in many ways; in the gathering to reveal secrets way (think Dinner, What Lies Within, Date Night), the getaway way (think Couple of Days or Hollywood’s Couples Retreat, Why Did I get Married), and in the assembly of husband-snatching back-biting women way (think Fifty, Glamour Girls), among others.
Egbe’s interest in telling the stories of the woman in her different films and television series is notable. Lekki Wives, is testament. However, with The Women, she seems to try too hard to force a lot down our throats. The idea is to make films that reflect true human behavior, I agree, but it is also to be balanced while at it, not focusing on the single story, especially when that story is not altogether true. In the end, Egbe tries to remedy the situation by throwing in a child trafficking excuse, a neglect issue, a poverty excuse and a dash of societal pressure. What these excuses end up doing is making the woman even more of a victim than one who can take responsibility for her choices. And this is why I might never understand the point of this film.