In the 2000s, Nollywood seemed to have focused a lot on campus rom-coms. It’s from there we know a lot of the current players e.g Genevieve, Rita Dominic, Desmond Elliot, Oge Okoye, Ramsey Noah etc. With time, Nollywood pivoted away and focused on other genres, but of recent, new entrants have been added to the rom-com genre. This Luke Aire Oyovbaire (We Are Fine, A Break From Reality, Lemonade) Nollywood romantic comedy movie stars Rona Adams (Meg Otanwa) as the main character, Alex (Jeff Nweke), Benny Ramsey (Gideon Okeke), Jackie (Fiona Garba), Emma (Erica Bale), and Judith (Ummi Baba-Ahmed). Loving Rona movie is a Lex Sparkles production.
The movie centers on Rona, a young wealthy business woman who deceptively enlists the help of her gardener, Benny, to end Alex’s (Rona’s ex fiancé) affair with Jackie(his masseur), so that Rona could have her fiancé back. But as you would guess, these things never go according to plan, Benny mistakenly falls in love with Rona and that is Loving Rona.
The opening scene sees Rona go for an early morning jog, something she never contemplates again over the course of the movie, one then wonders why she was depicted as this creature of habit. It might then be chalked to the fake life, which Emma (Rona’s sister, who has enough going on to fleshen her own story) seemed to keep saying throughout the movie, but Rona doesn’t even talk about jogging on her social media. While Rona’s job is not exactly spelt out in Loving Rona, it borders around social media influencing and being a brand ambassador.
This storyline has been used so many times, for this movie not to do anything new to it. Loving Rona presents multiple possibilities for stories that would have made the film stand out, but the writer, who doubles as the director, chooses to go the path well travelled. The movie flaunts itself as a game that would see Benny go snatch Jackie from Alex, but all the audience gets is Benny’s one club scene with Jackie after a number of scenes and film time was dedicated to his training. What’s more disappointing to see is the club scene that marks the finale and end of Benny’s seduction. For more reasons than one, it appears that Emma is the sole initiator of Rona and Benny’s relationship, because the viewers are not made to see any chemistry between them. She feels Benny loves Rona because he feels his boss is ‘nice’ and with that knowledge she convinces her sister to go after Benny even though she has shown little signs of affection.
One of the good decisions that this movie might be remembered for would be its characterization. In what just his role needed, Alex (played by Jeff Nweke) is overly calm throughout the movie as a rich young man who just wants to enjoy his life. Alex’s kind of male is seldom seen in Nollywood, the loud aggressive male is the usual trope and Nigeria is not one size fits all. Benny (played by Gideon Okeke), on the other hand, is much better as he is more versatile even as a self-professed actor. And Rona, played by Meg Otanwa, brings grace to stories that refuse to go forward.
The departments that should be lauded would be the post production and the make-up department. The motion graphics folks had eye-catching phone interface graphics that show incoming calls, while the make-up department made sure every female character is glammed up at all times, even when it appears inappropriate, say when Rona is jogging or just getting up from bed, or when Emma is just home doing nothing but looking good, and smoking, which are excesses that could cause a disconnect and strangeness to the audience.
For the most part, Loving Rona is a retelling of the popular fake relationship rom-com arc, one which one would expect to be better, given the multiple stories that layer this particular version. Explored, the stories are as useless as the training of Benny. However, the rom-com delivers on its comedic side while little is done on the romantic side. The comedy, mostly delivered by Gideon Okeke’s Benny, would be something Loving Rona would be remembered for.
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- For a well known story arc, the movie was too long and this reflected in how frequently bridge scenes and aerial shots were used. Since it’s a story most know already, there was no need to prolong it.
- In an age where many don’t know how to bring their sponsors into the frame of things, Luke’s inclusion of a sponsor in the story is a particularly fluid decision.
- Fake life seemed to be one of the themes of this movie, however, the audience only sees a bit of this explained.
Loving Rona is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.
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