Fifty could be said to be a 21st century version of Glamour Girls, the 1994 Ken Nnebue production; the main difference between the two being that whereas the ladies in Glamour Girls depended on men to live the good life, the women of Fifty made their own money either through hard work or inheritance. Additionally, some of the characters are similar. In Glamour Girls, the character played by Gloria Young; who likes very young men and even married one that became her ‘servant’, has the same behavioural pattern with Liz in Fifty.
Liz Benson’s character in Glamour Girls was defrauded of a large sum of money belonging to her husband (played by Sola Fosudo) by a creepy man (played by Raymond Johnson). In Fifty, this role of a gullible person is played by Kachi Nnochiri. Kate (Nse Ikpe-Etim) reminds one of the late Jennifer Okere’s character is Glamour Girls. In both films, their characters were the most vulnerable of the ladies.
The much publicized film on the exploits of four women, who are on the verge of clocking 50, is a potpourri of the sublime, trivial round and unreasonable. Its blemishes stem from unrealistic casting, inconclusive subplots, undeveloped character and the pitiable portrayal of men.
The centre can no longer hold when Maria (Omoni Oboli) is impregnated by Kunle (Wale Ojo), who happens to be Tola’s (Dakore Egbuson’s) husband. Liz (Ireti Doyle) cannot get enough of very young men and Kate (Nse Ikpe-Etim), whose life hangs in the balance, is in a marriage, in which her husband, Chike (Kachi Nnochiri), gambles away all the money she makes.
The use of a real church complete with the teeming congregation heightens verisimilitude. The fact that Kate combines Catholicism with Pentecostalism is evidence of the unparalleled desperation that many exhibit when things go wrong. It is heartwarming to see the performances and footage from The Shrine, Freedom Park plus the Lagos Fashion and Design Week. However, this does not tell much to viewers who do not know Lagos very well unlike the representation of Lagos in Tango with Me, Maami and even The Figurine, where Lagos was an essential part of the stories.
Meanwhile, some preview information credited the director, Biyi Bandele, as saying that he is pleased with his portrayal of Lagos in Fifty. In fact, the establishment shots of Kate’s house do not tell any story, so with many of the exterior scenes.
The relationship between Chichi (Kemi Lala Akindoju) and Maria beggars belief. If the two were relatives or it was indicated that they are really close, then one could understand why Chichi will have the temerity to sing Silent Night and make some of the bold statements she makes. Nevertheless, her actions are funny, but also very convenient and melodramatic. The viewer finds it difficult to reconcile how the same Maria, who commands Chichi not to set a table for two unless otherwise instructed, will treat her sarcastic rendition of Silent Night with levity.
In that discussion between Liz and Maria, the viewer should not have been reminded of Liz’s toy boy, her affair with Sade’s boyfriend and her planned plastic surgery; people and events, which sounded repetitive because the viewer was already conversant with them. Instead, the audience should have heard more startling revelations. During that argument between Tola and her mum (Tosan Ugbade) both women begin to ramble at some point.
Save for Jamaal (Timi Egbuson), who is a mirror character, it is worrisome that the rest of the men in Fifty are presented as pathetic beings: a rapist father, a néer-do-well gambler, a shameless gigolo and a reckless husband.
Unrealistic scenarios abound in Fifty. Kunle and Tola (a fifty year-old woman) have been in a childless marriage for years and it was never a problem, especially for the man. Chike and Kate, his now religious wife, never bring up their childlessness in their conversations; even Kunle and Chike, who hang out together never talk about the fact that they have no children, really? It is incredible that Kunle, who drives such an expensive car will run from pillar to post, seeking where to pass the night. Maybe, in the long run, accommodation will become a problem, but he cannot be so broke as to pass the night in Kate’s apartment after being thrown out of two previous places on the same night!
Age is the chief culprit in Fifty. Liz is the only lady who appears close to the age assigned the four women. Much as botox injections make people look younger, signs of ageing are not completely shut out by that cosmetic enhancer. Tola looks, at least, 12 to 15 years younger than 50; same for Kate and Maria. Chike also looks a lot younger than 50. Does he and Tola’s mum, who appears like a woman in her fifties (when she should be 70 or thereabouts), also use botox?
At the end of the day, one wonders what Liz’s decisions are. Is she going to get another ‘sugar son’ or is she now tired of them? Nothing is said about Kate’s prognosis? At what stage is the carcinoma, does she stand a good chance of survival? Incomplete subplots are different from open-ended ones. Fifty, Biyi Bandele’s sophomore film, could have been better if more attention had been paid to plot, casting and/or make-up plus character development. Be that as it may, it is a hilarious movie.