Contemporary Nollywood has made a fortune telling stories centered around “the inner caucus of the Lagos elite”. Ebonylife Films leads this movement; their most successful films ride on a combo of life of the upper-class Lagosians, disastrous ceremonies and star power. In The Wedding Party, there is a potentially disastrous wedding between the kids of two rich families. In the more recent Chief Daddy, it is a convoluted burial ceremony. The latest installment of this upper-class Lagosian stories is The Bling Lagosians, a comedy-drama that doesn’t embrace the slapstick that made these stories charming and offers nothing in replacement.
The film opens with Mr. Akin Holloway telling us about his city, family name, daughters, and his toys—exotic cars. The Holloway’s are one of Lagos’ most influential families; they are friends with politicians, they party opulently, they own Lagos’ grandest high-rise, St. Ives Tower, and they’re synonymous with class. Akin, the current head of the Holloway family, lives life to the fullest and his reckless mismanagement of company funds is starting to hurt the business.
As issues with the company threaten to reach a crescendo, Mopelola Holloway, the elegant matriarch of the family, is planning an extravagant party to celebrate her 51st birthday. The party is going to cost hundreds of millions of naira, and this is after spending an astronomical 1 million dollars for her 50th. The company’s debt does not matter when she is trying to prove her class to her socialite friends.
Akin and Mopelola have two daughters: Demidun Tade-Smith (Osas Ighodaro), a highly-sought after business consultant whose marriage is in shambles; Tokunboh Holloway (Sharon Ooja), a Nollywood screenwriter who dreams of an Oscar win, and is hired by an Asaba filmmaker, Nnamdi (a caricature of an Igbo businessman played maybe too well by Alexx Ekubo), who wants to transition into cinema Nollywood after conquering Asaba. We could remove the subplots featuring the daughters and the film will still go on because they add nothing to the main plot.
Akin, like other patriarchs in the Nollywood upper-class Lagosian cinematic universe, is sleeping with another woman, while his wife is busy planning an expensive birthday party amidst news that the company is on the verge of collapse. It is his infidelity that will bring his downfall. On the day Mrs. Holloway turns 51, news breaks out that her husband, Akin, has been sacked by the board due to mismanagement of funds and she flies into a rage and cancels the party. It is reminiscent of the cancellation of the wedding between Nonso and Deardre in The Wedding Party 2 and Adesua Etomi’s Dunni running away from the wedding venue in The Wedding Party 1. There is no doubt that The Bling Lagosians borrows from these films, but it is not as enjoyable because it lacks their comic charm.
Anthony Joseph Kehinde’s script tries to offer both substance and comedy, but never fully embraces the latter and the stakes are not raised to achieve the former, making the film look like a boring comedy cum hollow corporate thriller. Bolanle Austen-Peters, the first time director doesn’t help matters with her terribly constructed scenes, especially the cringeworthy romance scenes featuring Mr. Holloway and his mistress.
For a film about the 1% of the 1% of Lagos elite, The Bling Lagosians is poor fare. It doesn’t serenade you with opulence. If you are expecting a delicious visual ode to the wealthy folks of Lagos, you will be terribly disappointed. I was truly hoping for scenes that explore the most privileged parts of Lagos just like Crazy Rich Asians serenaded with a lush visual spectacle of Singapore. And while Lagos is not exactly as glossy, scenes that topped the rooftop dinner in The Royal Hibiscus Hotel would have sufficed, but we are stuck with familiar, ordinary aerial shots of Lagos roads and bridges.
Bolanle Austen-Peters’ disastrous directing debut wastes the fiery performance of Elvina Ibru who plays the sophisticated Mrs. Holloway to a T, embodying aptly the elegance of a wealthy Lagos matriarch as portrayed by Ireti Doyle in The Wedding Party and Joke Sylvia in Chief Daddy. Ibru is the only actor who delivered here. Gbenga Titiloye is uncharismatic as the wealthy patriarch of the Holloway family. Also, there is Toyin Abraham being Toyin Abraham—loud and too melodramatic.
Ultimately, The Bling Lagosians is disappointingly dull, it is the worst take yet on the upper-class Lagosian stories made popular by Ebonylife Films; it lacks their charm and hilarity, and even its disaster ceremony is unclimactic.