MOVIE: The Royal Hibiscus Hotel

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Ebonylife Film’s “Royal Hibiscus Hotel” is the actual cheese substance that every cheesy romance is made of.

In Royal Hibiscus Hotel (RHH), Opeoluwa (played by Zainab Balogun), a highly trained yet struggling chef in London, decides to return home to her parent’s hotel and see if she can turn her fate around there. Upon arrival, she meets a hotel with standards below sub-par where anything goes, nothing works and the few things that work are slowly giving way too. Her father, played by Jide Kosoko, is hiding a secret from his wife and daughter about his plan to sell the hotel to one of the guests, Deji. Deji, played by Kenneth Okolie is a suave young ‘international’ businessman who walks in and steals the hearts of every lady in sight – if the swooning by Lala Akindoju and Ini Dima’s characters are anything to note. Expectedly, he falls for Ope and soon enough they are on their path to romance.

Royal Hibiscus Hotel is quite the formulaic splendor. While no stone is left un-turned as the cinematographer, costume designer and set managers all seek to portray the wealth of the characters, the opulence in the locations, and the distinction of this RHH world, there’s also the story line on the other side. If there’s ever a formula of a love story that was played to the tee, it would be this one. Boy meets girl, check. Boy and girl are smitten by each other, check. They play drag and pull, check. Eventually they succumb to their love, check. Random conflict comes in between, check. They resolve this and live happily ever after, check check check. I hate to say it so frequently but the only thing missing here was really the airport scene.

Needless to say, the strength of this is not the originality. It’s in the little things. It’s in the chemistry between – are you ready for the surprise – Zainab’s character and O.C Ukeje’s character. Even though the male lead here is played by Kenneth Okolie, for whatever reason (or sum of reasons), them together in a scene felt more like reading a scene summary than actually feeling the love blossom. On the contrary, in the few scenes Zainab and O.C. shared together you really begin to wonder why they don’t end up together. In their sparse interactions, you sense the desire in his characters eyes and the hesitation in hers. You feel the tension of their history, and the stalled prospect of a future together. Unfortunately, though, all this amounts to nothing at the end.

The comic relief in this film, as is present in all EL Films, is the character of Ope’s mother, played by Rachel Oniga. While it was pleasant to see Oniga again in a primary role, her and her flamingo outfits did become a little bit too much by the end of the movie. To be honest, one could argue that even from the onset, the on-screen time given her character was entirely overstretched.

There are many other little joys scattered through this movie like the guest appearances by everybody’s favorite nollywood couple – Joke Silva and Olu Jacobs – playing old love birds while a few scenes later Johnny Drille’s “Romeo and Juliet” belts out the lines “and like Joke and Jake our love will never grow old”. There was also the joy of watching Toni Tones and her impeccable and never over-done comic brilliance. At the end of it all, RHH is nothing you’ve never seen before and nothing you will miss out having not seen.

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