Funke Akindele’s latest Prime Video project had arguably the biggest publicity budget of any Nollywood film. She Must Be Obeyed, a five-episode musical comedy-drama, is on the largest billboards on the major streets in Lagos. The ads pop up on several social media platforms.
Despite all the money and the who-is-who of the Nollywood cast that ‘She Must Be Obeyed’ parade, the output didn’t live up to expectations. There is a good plot but the delivery won’t leave you with a “Wow” effect, and neither does the drama leave you at the edge of your seat. The many attempts at humour often fall flat. The exchanges in the kitchen between SHE’s housegirl Ruka and the cook Etim are supposed to crack you up, but instead leaves you with a “flip this scene” feeling.
She Must Be Obeyed is centered around a music superstar named Siyanbola Adewale known by her stage name She, who suffers from a rare disease known as alopecia areata. The disease happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. In SHE’s case, it doesn’t help that as a young girl, her mother constantly made her the butt of every joke in the house. This significantly impacts her self-esteem to the point that SHE feels threatened by everyone around her and her relationship with others suffers.
In her obsessive quest to get to the top of the entertainment industry, SHE is willing to step on every toe, undermine the efforts of her staff, manipulate everyone into doing her bidding, and spread fake stories about those she considers competitors.
She Must Be Obeyed was a great opportunity to tell an important story that draws the needed attention to alopecia areata and gives voice to those living with the conditions and who are not able to express themselves because of fear of stigmatisation. It was an opportunity to send a message to young and upcoming artists to always go through their contracts before signing the dotted lines. It was also an opportunity to bring to light the need for reform in the poor treatment of backroom staff of celebrities and entertainers, who are often projected as pawns in their race to the top. On both scores, She Must Be Obeyed only gave an average performance.
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In that regard, Funke must be commended for drawing attention to these important issues both in the music industry and health care.
One of the things that She Must Be Obeyed also has in abundance is an assemblage of notable stars both young and old in Nollywood, which, unfortunately, also worked against it.
The cast list includes Funke Akindele; Nancy Isime; Eniola Badmus; Blossom Chukwujekwu; Waje Iruobe; Mike Ezuruonye; Adunni Ade; Lateef Adedimeji; Patience Ozokwor; Ime Bishop Umoh; Vee Iye; Akah Anani; Lizzy Jay; Ik Ogbonna; Shaffy Bello; Chinwetalu Agu; Ejike Asiegbu and Racheal Okonkwo. A good number of these big actors were underutilised in the entire six episodes
It must have taken a lot out of Akindele to be the producer, director, and lead a tie of SHE in the film. But it won’t be the first time she is taking on different roles in a movie project. Akindele took similar roles in her record Box Office movies Omo Ghetto and Battle on Bukka Street. And in both movies, she was at the top of her game.
But on She Must Be Obeyed, Funke seemed out of her depth. Her interpretation of the role of SHE was passable and what one would expect of an experienced actor like Akindele. Although it’s not given, another actor could have given a more captivating interpretation of the deep trauma and dual personality SHE was battling with. In different scenes, it felt like Funke struggled to project the right emotions for SHE.
The first episode begins with SHE performing her song at an award ceremony where she had expected to emerge the winner. Her choreography skills came off good but her music skills seem forced. In fairness, the story did state that SHE was not the voice behind her songs. She had forced a young lady Adaeze, whom she met singing in a club, to sign away her freedom and sing exclusively for SHE for 20 years on a compensation of N10 million.
However, Tito played by former Big Brother housemate Vee Iye, another musical act that performed after SHE emerged as the winner of the Artist of the Year category. For her biggest role in a big-budget Nollywood movie, Vee’s interpretation of the character Tito was forgettable. There is also the unbelievable comeback tactics she pulled in collaboration with her friend Xcite (Waje) after her sex video was released and went viral. The chance of winning back fans’ love – not to talk of sponsors approval -, after a celebrity’s sex tape goes viral, is very slim in reality.
Patience Ozokwor who plays the drunk and betting-addicted mother of Adaeze the voice behind SHE, was not fully developed. Patrick Doyle didn’t need to make that cameo appearance as the dying father of Adaeze. Chinwetalu Agu’s role as her uncle could have also been cut and no one will notice. Mike Ezuruonye gave a good interpretation of his role but his storyline in the film was not strong enough.
The four episodes of She Must Be Obeyed made efforts to get into the character of SHE but still came up short. Viewers are only treated to less than 2 minutes of SHE’s childhood. There is no explanation of how she left her family and became the celebrity that she is. In the entire five episodes, there is no explanation of whether she had a father and if he played a role in how she turned out. Why did she make a promise of sending her cousin abroad or why does her cousin need to travel abroad so badly? When did Xcite realise SHE was not what she claimed to be? Why is it so difficult for SHE’s managing agency to cut off given her consistently undermining their efforts for her?
It may be a deliberate way of keeping viewers expectant for a new season of the TV series. The fight scene at the end of episode 5 is perhaps the lowest part of the entire series, could have been avoided. May be the season 2 wil) be an improvement.