the guest

THE GUEST: ANOTHER NOLLYWOOD 90s REPRODUCTION

Posted on Posted in Movie Critiques

The Guest is a mixture of some fine things about filmmaking: a throwback of Nollywood 90s unique, though mediocre, story focus; the conceptual imitation of “shocking” conflict and “heart-pounding” tension; the theory of good overcoming evil; and the assortment of old-timer /new timer faces for major characterization.

This movie has got story elements that could very well captivate an audience. However, how would this same audience feel when a number of considerations are tackled in a seemingly pretentious and apparently non-relatable manner? How would the audience feel about a movie that feels very much like Nollywood 90s?

THEME

Love and Marriage, Friendship and Betrayal, and Jealousy are the major themes of this drama/thriller and The Guest showcases these, a great deal, in what feels like a very conservative urban setting.

Love and Marriage: Lola and Bill are married and presumably in love.” Presumably” because the first scene where they appear, there’s this stiffness between these two that an audience could mistake them for edgy colleagues discussing a new plan for their company, and pretending to be in good terms, rather than a couple whose romantic spark is dying out.

When they start to discuss in detail, it also doesn’t feel quite relatable that a husband and wife would leave the comfort of their home to discuss her lady-like business plan for the first time in a “fancy” lounge. This feels like something most Nigerian couples would do in the comfort of their matrimonial home (however way they choose to), and without the disturbance of the “little rascals” at home, which appears here to be the excuse for the lounge.

These rascals, themselves, appear to truly be harmless, obedient angels, whose mischief is never seen throughout the movie – one of them correcting his dad’s use of “because” and another calling on dad to answer them for school in the morning while dad’s trying to get some action with mom, is in no way mischievous as Bill paints it, when he says they are only sweet when they are asleep. So what’s the whole idea of these kids? To show they are happily married with kids? Could they not be happily married without kids?

Lola and Bill, in the first act, are always placed in contrived situations to establish that they aren’t getting enough sex and that she’s growing wings because of her business successes. What smells, most especially about the latter, is that it still doesn’t feel like quite in character for her.

Nikki, the deportee, steps in, pow pow pow, and she’s in bed with Bill. This works very much because the audience is already well acquainted with the now weak link between the husband and the wife and so, everything else that follows progresses the story beautifully.

Friendship and Betrayal: Nobody’s really sure how this trio ended up in this triangle till much later when Nikki starts to reveal it all in her bouts of jealousy and regrets. This is a pretty good move, as it keeps the audience in suspense, and wondering when that puzzle piece would finally fall in place in the midst of all the conflict.

  • This trio happen to experience (or have experienced)their varying doses of the bitch called betrayal: Bill felt betrayed by Nikki in their university days, and also at the moment she takes him hostage and shoots him in Act 3;
  • Lola soon understands that Nikki is not a friend at the swimming pool and at her attempted murder, and she feels betrayed on realizing that Bill has been sleeping with Nikki at her absence;
  • Nikki sincerely feels that Lola stole her man and her life with him, and establishes it at heated moment at the pool as a comeback to Lola’s “degrading” job offer. For the sake of the conflict all this brings, superb story telling!

Jealousy: Of course, the antagonist needs to be on to the protagonist for some reason, and jealousy does this trick! It is also the reason she goes entirely wild, giving birth to a seemingly uncelebrated theme in this movie: Man’s Inhumanity to Man. The heart of man, as the bible says, is desperately wicked, and jealousy seems to always top the list of reasons for it, as it does in The Guest. 8/10

PLOT       

It is extremely flattering that there is, indeed, a strong sense of structure in this movie: three-act structure to be precise. The Guest also has a lot of plot points, twists, obstacles, and conflicts: there is the Inciting Incident with Nikki’s attempted suicide(although, comes in a little too late);  there is the Second Thought of Nikki wanting Bill, all in Act 1, and there are a number of other exciting occurrences through the remaining acts. A few favourites would be…

  • Nikki’s preparation of Pounded Yam served with chilled Palm Wine, which used to be his favourite in his university days but had to have a change of diet because of Lola. She knew he’d like it, and he did, and so she crowns it with her offer of Boli (roasted plantain) and groundnuts. This was a real game changer.
  • Nikki’s several sensual and seductive antics.
  • Nikki’s police entrapment as she tries to make her way to the bank in the end.
  • Et al.

However, a number structural inconsistencies fail to allow this movie attain optimum quality as they disappoint to make proper sense:

  • The inclusion of the kids, who had to be taken out of the movie by a quick-fix mother-in-law to allow the trio play real dirty for we, the mature audience. The kids and the mother in-law never return, that could have been a good part of the movie’s resolution.
  • The absence of a proper resolution in the third act. Yes, the antagonist dies. What next?
  • The uselessness of the police who swamp into the scene, only making announcements with their PAS, and making no attempts to negotiate or ambush the criminal like a normal police would do at least, especially as we do not see them communicating with one another or something. Just a bunch of toothless bulldogs!

A few others are too contrived, unnatural, far-fetched, pretentious, any word you can think of as relevant to the points about to be made:

  • The estate agent, whom the audience forgets about in no time, as he isn’t even properly seen in his only scene (most likely, the filmmaker got a cheap, bad actor and decided to hide that fact), and the coincidental meeting of Lola and her husband where she reveals more about the business plan.
  • The gateman who has never been seen anywhere else doing anything happens to make his way into the rose garden (not sure I saw any roses, though), even after his prior search around the house for the house-help when she went missing.
  • Lola’s undramatic escape from Bill’s friend’s side into the house where Nikki keeps Bill Hostage. If a little more drama of him refusing to allow her go had gone down with these people in the compound in this heated moment, it wouldn’t look this contrived.

All these and more…deliberately created by the filmmaker to progress the story, rather than it arising from natural conflict.

There is no proper sub-plot in this movie. There are strands of it with Peggy, Bill’s friend at the bar, and even the major characters to an extent. These inadvertently and unfortunately allow for some inquisitions from the audience, especially as The Guest comes to an end. 6/10

CHARACTERIZATION

There’s a strong game going on for The Guest in terms of protagonist versus antagonist play. One of the best relationships between these two in filmmaking is usually when the protagonist has no clue what the antagonist is planning, and especially when the antagonist is right there underneath the protagonist’s nose! This calls for major conflict and tension. Though, the protagonist in this movie is away when the antagonist schemes majority of the time, and in her home!

Bill appears a little too dorkish for a while, till he later seems to start understanding the purpose of his character and starts being a little attractive – this could also be as a result of Nikki’s effect on his person. Or should I say, Rita Dominic’s prowess rubbing off on a newbie actor? Thankfully, this also somewhat works, as the audience is convinced that he’s got more ‘hots’ for Nikki than he does for Lola, his wife. One might conclude, also, that it’s the age of their marriage stealing the intimacy or something.

On a lighter note, we might want to do a little more research on if erotica is easier to script/act than domestics.

Lola doesn’t shine through even in her break outs. Could it be the choice of words here? Maybe, just maybe, no real, convincing conflict or tension happens with her. And there goes our protagonist, even before our antagonist appears.

Nikki, on the other hand, is a handful in everything. This is the way she’s meant to be and she does not miss out on anything in her character. She’s full-fledged rounded; the quintessential three-dimensional character, and does a good job creating emotions for the audience to feel even more than her protagonist does.

Peggy, Peggy, Peggy. Referred to occasionally and seen briefly about three times in The Guest, before she finally makes herself available for killing. Although, she is portrayed as an important intermediary, her character seems almost useless and could be done without especially as the filmmaker had no plans to further develop her.

It may not appear so, but Bill’s friend is even a more important character than Peggy. At least, he tells us something we don’t know, insisting that Bill pays Nikki off, and he also comes to rescue Bill in the end, which understandably still backfires. Peggy, on the other hand, keeps reiterating information the audience already knows about Nikki, and nothing more:

  • Nikki’s bad nature and stealing habits (the house-help reveals that too, and Lola already suspects that someone’s stealing her stuff);
  • Nikki’s former relationship with Bill (Nikki already reveals that, and even in a better heated dialogue);
  • and that Nikki is generally bad news (the audience can see that!)

It would be nice for the house-help to be a better actress, especially as her role proves relevant in helping drive the story forward. 4/10

DIALOGUE

Very detailed, though, ballistically on-the-nose! A to Z, the characters are continually telling the story as though the audience are meant to cram them, and this happens mostly in the first act,  making the movie feel less cinematic than expected.

A lot of back and forth talking heads flood this movie, not allowing for those little intimate and highly story-driven actions that would better buttress, for example, the love between Lola and Bill, and other moments.

It’s interesting how Nikki’s words bite every time they are emitted, and this makes up a great deal for all other spoken inadequacies; she’s the highlight of this movie through her words and her complimentary actions.

It does feel like the dialogue was intended to captivate, especially with the occasional play of words:  Bill and his son’s banter about “because”, and their discourse on the kids being angels or not that first night, and other instances.

Yet, not many punchy lines exist in this movie with the other characters; even if a few do, they are mostly submerged in the myriads of dialogue this filmmaker pushes forward in every scene. 4/10

PACING

Nothing exciting happens for the first almost twenty minutes but tons of detailed, unrelated talks, allowing the audience feel all the boredom in the world sitting at this movie. It also is understandable that most of the audience do not expect the movie to pick up any time soon in the first act, or at all, but thankfully, Nikki saves the day with the start of her attempted suicide.

A lot of tension is felt when Nikki starts to hit on Bill; this is where the real movie is at. The audience are kept at the edge of their seats as they observe all her antics, and The Guest gratefully starts to move real fast.

At the point where Nikki keeps Bill hostage, the movie slows down, which I believe is a good thing, allowing the audience experience the tense atmosphere of Bill pleading for his life, and with a signed cheque, as Nikki keeps pointing the gun she had shot him with at him, and with the later inclusion of the police surrounded in the compound. The deliberate time spent here keeps the audience anticipated on what the end of Nikki or Bill would be.

This filmmaker, then, is able to make something happen for Bill with Lola’s pretentious appearance, and allows a kind of tug between the ladies, before Nikki finally gets shot by Lola who’d invited this evil into her home.

There are movies that leave the audience wanting more in the end because of how interesting the story had been all along. The Guest, unfortunately, does not fall in that category, even if the filmmaker might reason that the audience would like to know more.

The Guest feels more like “unfinished business” than “I wish it’ll never end!” In other words, the fade out in The Guest feels too abrupt.

This filmmaker probably didn’t want to waste any more time on the movie. Considering that the real end has reached already. Unfortunate, as there is also a valuable piece of practice in filmmaking, a practice where all loose ends are tied up in the end, even when you’re sure there’s going to be a sequel. It is called the Resolution. 5/10

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­This movie has the potential to have been a whole lot better, but for its 1990s Nollywood conservative methodology of mediocre scripting, set design and meaningless close up shots, not allowing for a variety of cinematic effects.

As long as the tale is good, and is being told, the others do not really matter, right? So it feels with The Guest.

But, hey, the story-line and the moral are on fleek…. 26/50

PERCENTAGE: 54

GRADE: C

 

Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.

She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.

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