[The Film Blog] “New Money” is a modern update on the Cinderella Story

In New Money, we meet a handful of characters. But early on in the dramedy, director Tope Oshin brings Toun Odunmosun into focus. Living in semi-urban Lagos, Toun is just a regular girl doing regular things. She’s a lowly, average attendant at Shopper’s Delight, or “shop girl,” as she would later say in frustrated defiance, when overwhelmed with the responsibility of helming her late father’s conglomerate as CEO. New Money tracks the middle-class ordinariness of Toun’s life, the seemingly exploitative relationship with her boyfriend Falz (Quam), and her mother (Kate Henshaw), who runs a sizeable restaurant.

Like the well-told, fairytale story of Cinderella, Toun’s transition into wealth is almost final and complete, and feels like a veneer has been taken off. Out of nowhere, she’s informed that her late father (Kalu Ikeagwu), whom she vaguely knows, owns a conglomerate worth billions and wants her to continue his legacy. She’s watches him on a video message on Samsung phone, handed to her by her late father’s widow Ebube (Dakore Akande). That moment, as we see it, unfolds into years of selfish secrecy. Before Toun was born, and while her mother and father were still dating, her father’s family disapproved of the relationship and even the marriage, so much so that it had to be annulled. Toun’s mother had to give him up, and subsequently insulated Toun into a world far removed from her entitlements.

As Toun adjusts to this huge revelation, we see her relationship with her mother begin to fracture. But it’s also something we see coming. At the heart of New Money is a story of family and irretrievable time, of something lost and the drifting in of the outsize and glamorous. Toun is played by rising Nollywood starlet Jemima Osunde, who is also currently reprising her role in the latest season of MTV Shuga as Leila and the new season of Ndani’s Rumour Has It as Ranti. Her first feature film Jungle Jewel was a test in the waters, but it’s increasingly becoming evident that Jemima is no flash in the pan. “I always try to select movie roles that are not only entertaining to people but also have a message to pass across.” Jemima told The Sun newspaper earlier this year.

Tope Oshin’s vision for New Money isn’t grand, nor is the story, but the film settles for surprising gravity and seriousness. Toun must choose between overseeing her father’s company and being a fashion designer. Her former room, before she became blindingly rich, has a mannequin and sewing machine and cut-out fashion images on the wall. Along the way, she leans towards Joseph (Blossom Chukwujekwu), her official driver and a reliable support system inherited from her late father, who paid for Joseph’s law school while he was alive.

Though never once mentioned, Joseph’s surname is Fineboy. It’s ridiculous but, somehow, serves the purpose of a romantic tangent in the film. Toun ditches the heavy, corporate world to pursue fashion, and the 2017 Lagos Fashion Week sees her models strutting the runway in her designs. Later, she takes a walk down the runway and pauses, searching for someone in the crowd and then we realise it’s Joseph she’s looking for, who is seated in one of the front rows. They kiss. Or rather, she kisses him, which is so on-the-nose but also brushes over the fine details of our cultural Cinderella obsession. I wasn’t surprised at the film’s brand advertising, especially for Shopper’s Delight and Google, the latter coming to effect as when Falz Googles himself at the film’s end. Even less surprising is the sequel, which, I’m almost sure, is already in production.

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