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Friday, February 19, 2016


(Mmabatho Montsho, Khanyi Mbau & Renate Stuurman)

Female leads extraordinary in their portrayal of their characters and don’t pull any punches. (Review by Pranesh Maharaj)

Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was released in cinemas on February 19, 2016. Cinematography is by Lance Gewer and screenplay by Busisiwe Ntilintili.

I walked in with prejudices; lots of them; like four. Will this movie live up to the standards of Hard to Get’? Are South African audiences ready for this type of film? Are our actors ready for this type of film? Would this be different to Sex and the City or is it just a Jozie version?

Following a little array of short speeches the movie starts and I could see the director, Thabang Moleya, slowly working his way into our minds; introducing us to the world of this story and slowly, yet again, immersing us into it.

Ten minutes into it, I spoke to myself “Well-cast…” The scenes are short enough to tell you the story and move it along. There are wow moments and ouch moments spread evenly through the script. Our female leads are extraordinary in their portrayal of their characters and they don’t pull any punches. Mmabatho Montsho plays Nandi, a lawyer and compulsive perfectionist, Khanyi Mbau plays Zaza, a go-getter who lives the high life as a trophy wife and Renate Stuurman plays the role of Princess, a trend-setting art gallery owner.

Happiness is a Four Letter Word is a completely different and brave genre compared to Hard to Get (by the same production house). South African audiences are ready for this type of film. Our actors have what it takes to deliver this genre to an international audience. This is not a Jozie version of SITC. Albeit a universal story, the South African flavour cannot be denied. If you have not as yet in this new democracy met a Nandi, a Zaza or a Princess then you need to get out more.

Credit to the writer of the novel, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, in that this story has been constructed to first, establish the characters needs only to be destroyed by what they want; ending in getting what they deserve: happiness. We are reminded that we are not perfect and that accepting this about ourselves is as important as accepting it about others; mainly our significant others.

Technically it worked perfectly; with beautiful shots and a bit too tight at times but even a trained eye could miss those little moments. The sound was excellent but I did feel that the editor wasn’t feeling adventurous enough. Again, it was technically spot on.

Above all; Nandi’s story stood out for me. I felt that it was the main story and that the stories of the other two ladies were additional threads. Or maybe; I identify more with Nandi’s story. Then again Mmbatho Montsho excelled in this role. Her character was real and tangible from the start. Tongayi Chirisa was very natural as her live-in partner who also has a child with his ex. Their chemistry was so unique for a story like this that you couldn’t help but root for them to get back together in the end. Now I will never forget that line; “Merlot and avocado trees.”

Is this a chick flick? Yes. Should guys watch it? Yes. Why? Because we are in it. The strong male cast is a collective representation of who guys are and what they typically go through in relationships. There is no strong language and no nude scenes. Hands off  FPB.

Go and watch this; but don’t go with that attitude: “oh, we going to support Local”. This film carries its weight; enough to compete on an international platform and I sincerely hope it reaches there. Kudos to the production team; Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring, and producer Bongiwe Selane; who were brave enough to tackle this. Stop biting your nails; it will definitely sell. – Pranesh Maharaj