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Cinema Review: “Diary Of A Lagos Girl” Is More Of A Playful Experiment Than A Film

BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE

Seeing the two teasers weeks back, I wasn’t particularly excited about seeing this movie. I was, at most, grateful, that it didn’t hold too much promise that would eventually squash my expectations like the many before it. And then a part of me remotely held on to the hope of being pleasantly surprised. You know that thing they say about less being more? I figured they were probably reserving the ‘more’ for the main dish while they served us an unsatisfying teaser for entrée.

Oh well.

Diary of a Lagos Girl (written and directed by Jumoke Olatunde) tells the story of Bim (Dolapo Oni), a single girl on a quest to impress; to become the biggest girl rocking the biggest things. She buys things she doesn’t need and is constantly in the debt of her exploitative customer.

When, at a wedding, her friend Vona tells her she already found herself a rich man, Bim is convinced that she too needs a handsome, rich, classy, born again man as she is starting to get older. She begins to make moves in that regard, meeting men and going out on dates. At a house fellowship she attends, she is motivated by an older woman who shares her story, to ask God for a sign to recognize her man when he comes. She decides on the most ridiculous sign and joins hands with her friend in prayers to seal it.

Now, this movie has a lot going. There’s the aspect of Bim’s friendship with Shola and Vona (Linda Ejiofor). There’s the one of her incessant nightmares in which she sees herself as a miserable old lady still in search of a husband. There’s the part of Ife (Alexx Ekubo) and Timi (OC Ukeje), two men she meets separately, but who happen to live in the same house. There’s the part of the house fellowship and orphanage, and even that of her workplace. There’s just too much going on that if you decide to fiddle with your phone for a few minutes during the movie, you’d almost be lost at the turn of events. So, let’s just say Diary of a Lagos Girl keeps you glued to your screen. No, don’t smile just yet; that isn’t always a good thing.

The movie gets a pass on originality. No doubt, it is one of the most predictable movies I’ve seen this year, however, the writer manages to whip up some spice into it. So there’s the house fellowship addition, a rarity (the average person would make that a church instead) but which is very relatable. The writer also infuses some humor here and there, and at many points in the movie, you giggle, or just open your mouth and laugh it out if you’re practically the only one in the cinema, as was my case. Then there’s the aspect of the choice of cast for certain roles that works well. Liz Benson, despite being away from the scene for a while, proves she still has it in her and wears her ‘Church mummy’ role like a Calvin Klein dress on the red carpet. OC Ukeje and Dolapo oni also interpret their roles well and make the scenes with just them seem like a blast of AC in this terrible heat.

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That said, Diary of a Lagos Girl doesn’t seem sure of what it wants to do. One moment, Bim says she doesn’t need a man, the next she thinks she does. One would wonder who Shola (Adunni Ade) is to her: a housemate, or just a friend who always visits. And how does Bim date Ife without realizing he lives in the same house as Timi, or vice-versa? What is the first scene with Ife on the phone obviously scamming an overseas lover all about? One moment, you think he’s a yahoo playboy who’s up to no good, next they tell you he’s an accountant with a private jet or something like it. OC is supposed to be the humble dude that works with the World Bank but doesn’t own his own car or have his own place. Is that supposed to show humility or just plain silliness? There’s a picture of your fiancé booting your drunk friend out of a clearly rowdy place, and then you want to call off your wedding over it? Wait, remind me how Vona and Shola become friends with Timi and Ife again. Oh, and isn’t it supposed to be an orphanage: how is it that a pupil doesn’t show up in school because his parents can’t afford to pay for his malarial treatment? Did his parents miraculously rise from the dead?

Sigh.

The movie starts out with Bim introducing herself to her diary and you just begin to wonder who does that. The director seems undecided on what to do, whether to make Bim write in her diary (Elena Vampire Diaries-style), or speak directly to the screen (Vivica Fox Two-Can-Play style). She decides to merge both styles and does a messy job at it.
There’s also the fact that many times I had to strain to hear what was being said, and how it looked like something was off with their skin colors because of the lighting. There are the really cheesy wedding scenes, the first, second and third, with two women speaking Yoruba to an obviously mixed audience. The height was when a voice over came on in Bim’s dream, which was supposedly God talking to her. And did they think we wouldn’t figure out that the voice belonged to the man who was supposedly clamoring to become a witch (‘oh no, wizard, since I’m a man!’) Urghh…

I think the title did great at having us sold. It held the promise of a typical Ijeoma Agu persona strutting her stuff; breaking hearts, making money, getting in and out of trouble just to remain at the top of the big girl ladder. This is the picture of the typical Lagos girl. This is the picture we paid money to see.

All in all, I’ll say Diary of a Lagos Girl is more a playful experiment than it is a movie. Yes, it sells its message of all that glitters not being gold, but it does it in a way that gets you shaking your head at its tackiness.

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