by Wilfred Okiche
Nollywood starlet, Mary Lazarus joins the ever-expanding list of actresses to take the plunge into film production with Dance To My Beat. She plays it as safe as she possibly can by backing a project that is tucked securely in the weddings sub-category of the romantic comedy genre.
Because filmmaking is a business and everyone is essentially an independent player, there are no pretensions to Dance To My Beat. Lazarus expects returns on investment, on the short term, and so every clichéd plot turn, every guest star appearance, every attempt at a joke is created for maximum profits. This line of thinking isn’t necessarily a letdown for audiences simply looking for laughs. Those who want their rom coms full of heart, wit and imagination might have to look elsewhere though.
Mary Lazarus casts herself in the lead as Olamide, the worst kind of Lagos big girl. Olamide has no discernible source of income, nurses an unhealthy appetite for splurging and has a questionable past that is demonstrated in a scene with NairaBet founder Akin Alabi. She has succeeded in needling some poor sucker, Raymond (Joseph Benjamin) to take her down the aisle but brings nothing to the relationship save for an unearned sense of entitlement. She wants a big, high-profile society wedding and will not let the simple fact that she and her fiancé cannot afford it stop her from getting one.
Olamide’s grand plan for financing this wedding, and fueling her over-inflated lifestyle is to sell her wedding asoebis at exorbitant prices. She belongs to a cohort of ladies inclined to this ideology of faking it until you make it and so is able to get subscribers to her get rich quick scam.
The problems begin when Olamide and Raymond discover – what anyone could have told them for free- that maintaining their new lifestyle (rented duplex in Lekki, expensive jeep et al) is a lot more demanding than getting them in the first place. They are further sucked into the black hole when they find out they have to keep oiling the wheels that made them rich in the first place by purchasing her friends’ asoebi, also at exorbitant rates.
Mary Lazarus recognises that she isn’t quite the engaging leading lady, and invites other big-name players to complement her efforts. Her character, Lamide is a monster but she wisely plays it with some grace and downplays the mean streak. The result is that the character is a lot more tolerable than she could have been.
Joseph Benjamin as Raymond, the mid-level civil servant who is first a victim of Olamide’s avarice, and then descends into the co-conspirator role affects a thick Igbo accent that is both overdone and impressive. It would take just one scene for him to shut his wife and all of her hare-brained antics down but there would be no film if that were to happen.
Attention to detail isn’t the film’s strong suit and as such, Dance To My Beat fails to convincingly show how Raymond is able to afford his boys quarter apartment, talk more of the Lekki mansion that the family moves into after a so-called successful wedding that wasn’t even depicted on screen.
Lazarus must have been faced with the financial and logistic challenge of staging two weddings in one film and so decides to save her efforts for the film’s major set piece, yet another high-profile wedding involving her frenemy, Rhoda (Kehinde Bankole).
Directed by Paul Igwe, Dance To My Beat is striking to look at, in a garish, over the top way. No gimmicky shots, no elegance to the filmmaking. The wedding scene, the asoebis, the big houses, the cameo appearances and product placements all add a certain colourful energy to the film that keeps it flirting with the baroque side. Comedian Ushbebe has his moments as the comic foil to Benjamin’s Raymond. Lazarus and her female stars – comprising Mary Remmy Njoku, Toyin Abraham, Uzor Osimkpa – between them sport enough fluttering fake lashes to sweep the whole of Lagos clean.
The entire premise of Dance To My Beat is quite silly, and ultimately less than believable but Stanley Isokoh’s screenplay papers most of the cracks by injecting laughs in every other scene. For those who will be charmed by it, perhaps this is simply enough.
The writer tweets from @drwill20