By Faith Haushona-Kavamba
SOUTH Africa, after many years of trial and error, has found the perfect recipe to creating an original Mzansi rom-com.
Happiness is a Four Letter Word, is one of the Hollywood quality movies in its genre to have come out of the country in recently.
Cleverly titled to imply that happiness is love (the four letter word), the movie follows the lives of three girlfriends trying to navigate their way through love, marriage, relationships and their careers.
The movie follows Nandi (Mmabatho Montsho) a lawyer who has just made partner in her firm, but her love life is disrupted by the re-emergence of an ex who she has unresolved feelings for, Zaza (Khanyi Mbau) a trophy wife who cheats on her husband because she feels neglected and Princess (Renate Stuurman), a successful gallery owner who can’t seem to commit until she meets Leo (Richard Lukunku), who undoubtedly breaks her heart.
Notable faces in the star-studded cast include Tinsel’s Chris Attoh as Chris, Nandi’s ex-fiancé who left her broke and destitute and award-winning actor Tongayi Chirisa, recognisable for his stints in Sleepy Hollow and American Horror Story: Asylum, who stars as Thomas, Nandi’s under-achieving fiancé.
As opposed to showing the typical black women struggling in the townships, it shows another side, the African dream if you will. These are well-off educated blacks, whose lives are not as picture perfect as those looking in from the outside would think.
This setting is commendable because it shows a side to Africa that most people do not see, especially in the Western world where they are only bombarded with visuals of children to hungry and weak to swat the flies from their eyes. This is an indication of how African cinema can excel when it reclaims its own narratives.
The glamorously dressed women, with their love for wine and jaw-dropping high-heels is reminiscent of Sex and the City, however Montsho and Stuurman’s natural hair, throwing in the occasional African fabric garment reminds you its South African.
The story line is dynamic; multi-faceted and young female professionals caught up in the troughs of love and career will see themselves reflected in one of the characters as they try to navigate their way through their complex lives.
Each of the characters, at different stages in their lives, has to find their own bespoke happy ending. However, while the story is tantalising and at times takes unexpected twists, the ‘happy endings’ do not defy convention, and regurgitate what the typical happy ending is.
Spoiler alert! Zaza reconciles with her husband, Nandi ends up with her Mr Right who was there all along but failed to appreciate, while the serial dater Princess has a baby.
This subscribes to the notion that women can only be happy married with kids and husbands. Princess, could have discovered the root of her aversion to commitment and Nandi, who seemed not to know what she wanted in her life save for her career, could have pursued that and lived happily ever after. Anything but the predictable endings they had.
Additionally, some of the characters, like Zaza and Princess, needed a tad more development in terms of back-story and what led them to find themselves where they are.
However, the cliché’s did not take away from the movie; it just re-imagined the modern day, African fairy-tale and fairy tales are needed because they give people hope for the future.
Happiness is a Four Letter Word, happiness is love, and happiness is what you make of it.
Happiness is a Four Letter Word now available for rent on DSTV Box office for N$30
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015