Reviewer: Esosa Omo-Usoh
So, here is the storyline of ‘Seven and a Half Dates’: Bisola Gomez (a barely recognizable Mercy Johnson whose several wigs in this movie seemed to have more screen presence than she did) is made out to be a workaholic who did not care much for romance in her life.
Her younger sister (Bayray McNwizu, who had barely enough screen time and lines to make any meaningful impact) gets engaged to an abusive boyfriend with full parental participation in the engagement performance.
Naturally, being Nigerian, Bisola is next in her parents’ cross hairs to get hitched albeit with more subtlety from her father (Akin Lewis) and full on marching order/emotional blackmail from her mum (Sola Sobowale).
To set the titular dates rolling, her father proposes a 10-blind date match up with some children of his friends amongst whom Bisola (who barely puts up a fight against this parental match-making disguised as a chess game of blind dates) is expected to pick a love interest.
Expectedly, the blind dates go awry with each one being worse than the last. The dates are so God-awful and cringe worthy, you wonder between her father and the producers of the movie, who is the worst matchmaker.
In between the awful dates, Bisola, whilst waiting for her seventh date in a bar, chances upon Jason Lawal (Jim Iyke spotting a beret that made him look like a cross between a French gendarme and a Casanova wannabe) and her sister is revealed to be in a physically abusive relationship with her fiance.
So, here’s how this storyline plays out in the movie: First off, the background voice over was off putting. It seemed rather distracting and came off more like a voice over for a Nollywood movie trailer that plays before the main attraction at the cinema starts.
The entire movie lacked energy both in performance and ambiance. In fact, in many scenes the poor lighting seemed to accentuate this feeling of lethargy that pervaded the movie. This was further exacerbated by some sloppy shaky camera work in a couple of scenes.
The transition between scenes sometimes came rather abruptly suggestive of poor editing work. Some scenes were so down right unanimated it seemed the actors were engaged in some rehearsal reading.
As lead character, Mercy Johnson’s Bisola was insipid, unconvincing as a supposed workaholic and in some scenes her “grrr!” lines were so cringe-worthy it made you “grrr!” and cringe in recoil.
With her face buried under what seemed like a ton of make-up, Johnson’s usually spirited and engaging performance as an actress came across as bland, uninspired and seriously deprived of performance oxygen.
When script writer, Joy Isi Bewaji had let on sometime last year that she was scripting this movie set to star Jim Iyke and Toyin Aimakhu in lead roles, I had expressed reservations about Jim Iyke.
Save for a cameo role in ‘Tears in the Ghetto’ many years back, I have never been particularly impressed by Jim Iyke’s performances in his movies. He is as one-dimensional as they come.
In fact, I have always considered him as always playing Jim Iyke in his movies rather than the character the scripts call for. So, with ‘Seven and a Half Dates’, I wasn’t keeping my fingers crossed that Iyke would turn in an impressive performance.
In his very first scene, Jim Iyke turned in an uncharacteristically restrained performance (albeit the French gendarme/Casanova wannabe vibe from his costume was hard to ignore) but this quickly gave way for the Jim Iyke-playing Jim-Iyke vibe that always characterizes his performances.
It was not all a tale of woe though. As Abiodun, the grating shop attendant who could talk the hind legs off a donkey, Toyin Abraham achieved genuine laughs with her performance, and provided a redeeming scene for Toyin Idowu (Frank Donga) to impress a bit with the comic gold of his facial expression.
By far the most outstanding performance was Sola Sobowale’s distraught mother post the wedding debacle. Sobowale is often given to over acting and she does that in some scenes in this movie. But in the post wedding scene when she apologises to her daughters and husband, she gave an impassioned delivery that will tear you up. The tears and pain lacerated her face and impassioned her voice with such convincing remorse even a heart made of steel would melt.
Between the handicaps of their respective performances as lead actors, neither Mercy Johnson nor Jim Iyke could ignite the convincing romance this movie needed to redeem itself as a romantic movie.
But even the claim that it is a romantic movie is almost called into question by the fact that the movie spent its running time oscillating between an unconvincing attempt at a romantic movie and a social commentary on domestic violence and the expectation that getting married is a mandatory social obligation for women.
Genesis Cinemas - Marylnd Mall
Silverbird Cinemas - Galleria VI
Genesis Cinemas - Lagos Palms
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