Movie Title: Royal Hibiscus Hotel
Cast: Zainab Balogun, Kenneth Okolie, Deyemi Okanlawon, Jide Kosoko, Rachel Oniga, Charles Inojie, OC Ukeje, Lala Akindoju, Toni Tones, Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva
Direcor: Ishaya Bako
“Royal Hibiscus Hotel” is the story of Ope Adeniyi (Balogun), a lady who works as an assistant chef at a restaurant in London. She quits her job in the face of shabby treatment from her supervisor, and when she fails in her bid to pitch the idea of an African restaurant to an English investor, she decides to return home, much to the delight of her mother Rose (Oniga) who is eager to see her get married.
Ope plans to take over the hotel owned by her father, Segun Adeniyi (Kosoko). Unknown to her, however, her father has concluded plans to sell the hotel to pay off huge debts. The prospective buyers, Deji (Okolie) and Martins (Okanlawon) arrange to spend a few nights in two of the hotel’s more expensive suites. Ope, eager to switch up the quality of food at the hotel, runs into Deji, and an emotionally intense situation erupts.
The quality of sound throughout the movie is top-notch, and there is evidence of significant effort in terms of production, even where the lip-syncing at the second dinner scene is pretty obvious. The cinematography is admirable too, never mind one of the scenes where the fire from the gas cooker had “special effects” written all over it. The score is beautiful too, with songs like Johnny Drille’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Mr Eazi’s “Skin Tight” and Nonso Amadi’s “Tonight”. If an original sound track is released, I will definitely purchase it.
Jide Kosoko and Rachel Oniga give a good representation of the old guard as they complement each other well, and Oniga’s outlandish wardrobe choices are easily forgivable with her good acting. Zainab Balogun gives a fairly good account of herself, and Deyemi Okanlawon plays the role of asshole to a head-nodding extent. For someone playing Yoruba Demon, Okolie could have been smoother, but the part where he takes off his shirt will definitely get the ladies swooning. Lala Akindoju is adorable in this one, and while Charles Inojie’s comedy doesn’t translate here as effectively as it does in “The Johnsons”, he is by no means a poor actor. OC Ukeje’s role is not exactly relevant to the plot, and the necessity of the Jacobs/Silva combination as the old-couple-still-in-love is still up for debate.
There are a number of head-scratching moments occasioned by this film’s script though; where does a hotel guest get to make meals at a five-star hotel, and where does the same guest suddenly gain unlimited access to the hotel’s kitchen? The airport scene where Ope and Deji “accidentally” bump into each other for the first time reeks of eye-rolling clichés, and the conclusion is as improbably as it is corny; who buys off a huge property, adds the name of the seller’s daughter to the title document, and then flies to London to request a partnership? There is love, and there is saccharine bullshit.
“Royal Hibiscus Hotel” boasts of abundant colour, but is bedeviled by a plot that drags us more in the direction of Asaba than Hollywood Boulevard. It is cheesier than Jade Osiberu’s “Isoken”, and sadly, less properly executed. It is apt for the season we’re in, and it will generate lots of cooing and abdominal butterflies, but if you are looking for a memorable movie, save that ticket money, Black Panther is not far away.
Jerry Chiemeke is a columnist, culture critic and lawyer. His works have appeared in The Inlandia Journal, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Guardian, Honey & Lime, Bone and Ink Press and Agbowo, among others. A lover of long walks and alternative rock music, Jerry lives in Lagos, Nigeria where he is working on a novel. He is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews, and he was shortlisted for the 2019 Diana Woods Memorial Award for Creative Nonfiction.
Jerry has been a featured contributor for platforms like Okadabooks, Bellanaija, The Bagus, The Lagos Review and the Opera News Hub. He has also facilitated writing workshops in different parts of Nigeria, and for his contribution to the Nigerian literary community, he was presented with the 2019 Connect Nigeria Award for Excellence.
He is the author of ‘The Colours In These Leaves’. Get the book here
He tweets @J_Chiemeke