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Pulse Movie Review: It’s more glitz and less soul in Tosin Coker’s “Lara and the Beat”

There have been worse Nollywood movies this year so far, but none has been as disappointing as “Lara and the Beat.” Director Tosin Coker’s star-studded and hyped, yet jumbled, “Lara and Beat” movie is a difficult one to explain.It is a coming of age movie about the young Giwa sisters – Dara (the sharp one; played by Somkele Idhalama) and Lara (the shallow one; played by Seyi Shay) – whose affluent lifestyle comes to an end when they are caught in the middle of a tax fraud with their late parents’ media empire.Forced to leave their mansion and give up their assets, Lara reaches out to her friends for shelter, but they are not of help. They all have excuses to offer. Apparently, they have never been a fan of their rather supercilious friend.She also reaches out to her boyfriend and potential fiancé, but he – Jide; DJ Exclusive – alongside his dramatic mother [Shaffy Bello] are not of help either. They eventually move in with their cook, Patience (Chioma Akpotha), in her humble home, necessitating a lifestyle adjustment for the sisters.It’s easier for the level-headed Dara to come to terms with their new situation. The spoiled, fashion-conscious Dara, on the other hand, reacts with horror to their new home. She is disrespectful to everyone and won’t quit nagging.”She wasn’t always like this,” Dara says about Lara to Patience’s daughter, Tonye (Kemi Lala Akindoju), who isn’t a huge fan of Lara. According to Dara, their parents’ death ‘changed her.’But at least, Lara has a hustle. She is an aspiring singer searching for a break in the industry. It also turns out that their hired driver for years, Sal ‘Mr Beats’ Gomes (Vector), who, from the look of things is quite wealthy, also works with a record label. This is where it gets really confusing.In one scene, Mr Beats is seen saving a rich guy from touts; in another, he is seen working as a hired driver; in another, he is recording in a studio and when his boss walks in, he quickly picks a trash bag and pretends to be cleaning the room; in another, he is riding quite an expensive bike; and in another scene, he is relaxing in a posh house which he owns.It’s not certain what his job at this record label is. Is he pretending to be a cleaner in a record label while waiting for his big break in the music industry? Or is he a millionaire who just has a thing for chauffeuring and keeping his environment clean?Anyway, Lara and Beat officially become friends when they meet at the studio, and for some reason which we never really understand, he claims to hold an important position in the company.Mr Beat isn’t the only confusing character in this film. We are introduced to Fadekemi (Uche Jombo) for the first time immediately after Dara is booted out of the office building by ILRS.Fadekemi, a friend of their Uncle who played a part in their ruin, is waiting in her car, and Dara, who had arrived the company in a different car, joins her.She introduces herself to Dara as a friend of the family who wants to help. There are questions here: Who exactly is Fadekemi? How and why does Dara just zoom away in a stranger’s car? And even after the credits roll, we never understand who Fadekemi is, her obsession with the Giwa media empire, and why she even had to be in the film. While the sensible younger sister, Dara, tries to fix things – even though we never see her actively make any move – Lara thwarts her effort. In a particular scene, she is mad at Lara for ‘selling the company into corporate shock.’This is after Fadekemi approached a desperate Lara, offering to help. Now, the viewers aren’t exactly let in on what they discussed during this meeting, but considering the fact that Lara has been projected as an air head who is only obsessed with being a star and wearing expensive designers, it’s difficult to understand how she’s familiar enough with the business to make such a move. Nevertheless, something that works perfectly in “Lara and the Beats” is the stunning beauty of the costumes, as most of the characters appear on the screen in clothes to die for.Also, it isn’t without its comic moments and warmth, all thanks to the scenes with Shaffy Bello; the morning devotions at Aunty Patience’s home; and the friendship between Dara and Tonye.There’s also the music. “Lara and the Beat” is laced with original soundtracks courtesy of Seyi Shay, Vector and other artists.There’s also music from artists such as Ajebutter 22, Tomi Owo, Show Dem Camp and Lady Donli. These songs are captivating, and it’s easy to smile when songs like “Let me Go” comes on.If only the titular characters have even a little dose of chemistry to breath more life to the mood. As a couple, Lara and Beat don’t share any memorable moment. There’s absolutely no chemistry. As Mr Beat, Vector fails to embody the charm and sophistication you so desperately think his ‘enigmatic’ character deserves.His bland delivery of his lines begs the question: Why was he cast for the role? Especially, since his profoundly forgettable acting debut in the 2017 romantic comedy “June” doesn’t show he is capable of leading a cast, yet.There are so many characters that we would never understand why they had to appear in this film: DJ Exclusive as Femi; Toni Tones as Trish, Akah Nnani as G Diddy… This is a film that would probably have fared better without the unnecessary crowd. In “Lara and the Beat,” so much work is put into the impressive production design, camera work and musical score that the movie turns out to be more of a tribute to thrilling visuals than an entertaining piece of art.And just as in “Banana Island Ghost,” another sophisticated film by Biola Alabi Media, there are quite a number of unnecessary scenes created to pay homage to the sponsors.In the end, “Lara and the Beat’s thrilling visuals overpower its essence. It’s poor character development and underwhelming resolution, a distraction from the soul of the story.For a movie about two sisters learning to build their own future and salvage their family’s past after a fraud scandal, the actions, journey and feelings of its characters are difficult to connect with.There have been worse Nollywood movies this year so far, but none has been as disappointing as “Lara and the Beat,” a film which promised so much more than it delivered.

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