“Lara and the Beat” is a shiny bauble of a Nigerian comeuppance comedy, a romp through Lagos affluence, pop stardom, conspicuous consumption and losing it all in a flash.
Well, that’s how it begins. It doesn’t go wholly wrong all at once, but damned if the filmmakers don’t lose the thread and stumble and lurch and pad this thing until their Nollywood film is Bollywood length, without the wit, warmth or content to justify it.
We’re introduced to privileged Giwa sisters Lara (Seyi Shay) and “baby sister” Dara (Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama) at their peak. Lara is the diva to end all divas, a singer, celebrity and free-spender, dismissive of all, ordering everybody around — servant, relative or “friend.” And Dara is some sort of film producer, far more polite and modest, and about to go to graduate school.
Dara’s the one trying to learn the family business, a media company they inherited. But the first board meeting we see her attend is the one the Nigerian IRS raids. Tax fraud. The family’s been pilfering while Lara’s been over-spending.
Nobody mentions how much Dara’s seriously non-commercial movies have been costing. That doesn’t fit our narrative, even though everything else, and then some, does.
Lara’s never bothered to learn the real names of her “servants.”
“Do I look like I care? Of COURSE not!”
She can’t believe the news, which she picks up on Twitter — #Giwagate, #Giwasbroke. Schadenfreude is big in Nigeria, and the country’s resident Kardarshians are getting their comeuppance.
Lara is hit the hardest by all this — the loss of the Mercedes, the house, “my 1,000 pairs of shoes and handbags.” Oh, that proposal she’s expecting from rich beau Jide? Don’t bank on that, either.
Dara’s just trying to figure out what happened, where they can stay the night (“Friends” are all-too-happy to turn Lara down.).
The sisters make mention of “the village” where their family is from, their last reliable relatives (The ones with the company are fleeing town.), but a place “that doesn’t even have WIFI,” Lara whines.
THIS is where “Lara and the Beats” could have gone. Rich, spoiled city slickers humbled and launching their comeback from BF Nigeria might be a trite, tried and true formula for a comedy about the rich who fall into poverty. But often as not, that formula works.
Nope. This script instead takes an equally predictable and far less interesting route, with Lara looking for glory from her travails through Sal, the driver (Vector the Viper) Lara never gave a thought to (or remembered his name) who just happens to be an aspiring writer and music producer himself.
At some point in the latter acts, I lost all interest in this. The forgivable sins of sloppy pacing — too many shots of people entering and exiting Bentleys and Porches, or polishing them, scenes pointlessly staged on a motor yacht to show how the idle rich idle — aren’t a bother when you’re throwing us into Lara’s meltdowns over her plight and her entourage’s’ evil smirks when she hits bottom.
We chuckle along with them.
It’s all the tedious things Dara must “discover” and Lara must figure out that bog “Lara and the Beat” down for the last 70 minutes of its 137 minute run time.
I’ve watched a number of Nigerian films these past few years, partly due to a growing interest, mostly to due to Netflix’s insidious “show you more like that” algorithms. Some were OK, some were “close” but near misses, and a few were indifferent.
“Lara and the Beat,” pretty and shiny as it is, was the first I felt was a serious waste of time.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Cast: Seyi Shay, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, Kemi Lala Akindoju and Vector the Viper
Credits: Directed by Tosin Coker, script by John-Arthur Ingram, Kay I. Jegede and 1pearl Osibu. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:17