Nollywood movie review: Being Mrs. Elliot

A scene from the movie Being Mrs. Elliot Image Courtesy: Bella Naija

Starring: Omoni Oboli, Majid Michel, Ayo “AY” Makun, Lepacious Bose
Director: Omoni Oboli
Year: 2014

This movie brings to mind a mantra I have been hearing a lot lately: Show but don’t tell. According to the people who mouthed this mantra, it is the trademark of a good writer/filmmaker.

There was a lot of telling in this movie. At the beginning, all the players were quickly established: Mrs. Lara Elliot (Omoni Oboli), an overbearing wife who had issues with what she saw as her husband’s naiveté. Mr. Bill Elliot (Majid Michel) wants to adopt the two sons of a dying relative but Mrs. Elliot would not have it. She was especially enraged when her husband mentioned that he has the support of his personal assistant, Nonye (Sylva Oluchy).

Of course, Nonye was some pretty young thing with the hots for her handsome boss. She was not subtle at all. One sight of her in her short, form-fitting dress and we knew she was going to get what she wanted or get caught trying.

More baffling was the introduction of Isawuru, played by Ayo Makun, who, weirdly, for a Yoruba man, could not put on a more natural native Yoruba accent. You could get Julius Agwu to fake the same accent and the result would be the same.

We, the audience, were supposed to believe that Isawuru was a well-educated babalawo; in fact, the most educated person in his village, according to one of his clients/friends. The actor didn’t make it believable.

In between the constants face-offs between the Elliots, we were taken to Asaba, to the home of a young man –probably a journalist –who seemed bent on exposing some unscrupulous oil bigwigs. While he was arguing with a chief-like man –the actor was huge with a pot belly and wore a red cap; he must be a chief! –the young man’s girlfriend was cooking in the kitchen.

The argument eventually escalated, causing the girlfriend to come out of the kitchen and see her boyfriend get shot before her eyes.

Don’t worry; I’ve not spoilt anything –yet. I would be “a spoiler” if I told you that a few scenes later the script veered towards Bollywood and borrowed some ideas from Sunita. But then, I would be insulting Mrs. Oboli, who was also this movie’s scriptwriter as well as director and lead actress, because, of course, Being Mrs Elliot was much more intriguing; with its twists and turns, trying very hard each time to surprise us.

There is an accident though, which finally explained why we were earlier on introduced to Isawuru the Babalawo. If you are a “Nollywood don,” like my cousin, you probably saw that coming too.

For a very good story, Being Mrs. Elliot was not as well told as one would have expected and left one wondering when our Nigerian filmmakers would stop undermining our imagination.

Mr. Michel’s acting was like someone being a guest in their own home. Mrs. Oboli was okay but then, she was playing a typical Nollywood wife, with lots of ultimatums, eye rolling and hisses. Even an intern in her first Nollywood role can play that. In the second half of the movie, when she took on more load, playing two characters –the actress still seemed to be coasting.

The MVP, interestingly, was Lepacious Bose. Of course, her character was as cliché as all the others but she put the “comedy” in the so-called romantic comedy. Just her –and, oh yes, her comically made-up side-kick deserves a favourable mention too.

Two characters that one could have seriously done without were Mrs. Elliot’s friends. If they were supposed to be caricatures – which, actually, they were – the movie failed to make that clear. Apparently, we were supposed to believe that there are Nigerian women who behave in real life like snotty characters from an old English play.
The cinematography was noteworthy but as expected, there were the very obvious product placements; something my friend and Nollywood critique, Efeturi Doghudje, once remarked about.

Still, I commend the attempt to rise above the usual mediocrity. However, a lot less dialogue and more subtle characters would have helped in that direction. All the same, it was interesting; I stayed till the end.


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