Director Moses Inwang is steadily building a profile as the definitive chronicler of the mental health issues that afflict Nigerians. Throughout his career, Inwang has made involved, if flawed, efforts to explore conditions and situations that Nigerians would very much prefer to keep hidden in dark cupboards.
Inwang hasn’t achieved maestro status yet in his chosen sub-specialty but he continues to try. Last year’s Alter Ego was an overwrought attempt that didn’t quite know when to quit, and the Caroline Danjuma produced Stalker was a total misfire. A strong Iretiola Doyle performance however managed to guide 2013’s Torn to safe landing.
His latest, Crazy People does not stray far from the title. Nollywood icon, Ramsey Nouah stars as himself, a Nollywood actor returning from a self-imposed exile, only to find out that an imposter has taken full advantage of his absence to steal his identity. Aided by his manager, Lucia Opara (Chigul Omeruah), Nouah goes on a corrective mission to get back his life and career.
It is a wild ride that Nouah and Lucia embark on and along the way, the duo come across real life Nollywood players- Monalisa Chinda, Kunle Afolayan and Kelechi Amadi Obi make cameo appearances. Only for some reason, they all cannot recognize him.
Like most films directed by Inwang, there is a twist and the initial harried appearance of Sola Sobowale’s character gives some clue as to what is going on. A bizarre press conference in which Nouah announces his return holds another clue but it isn’t till well over the halfway mark that Crazy People really starts to unravel.
It is a risk that Inwang takes going in the direction that he does, especially as the screenplay credited to the trio of Inwang, Koye O and Patrick Nnamani is quite repetitive for the earlier parts. Nouah on the hunt for his impostor, and acting on tips gotten from a key informant, keeps narrowly missing his mark. Meanwhile on the trail of both Nouah and Lucia, is Doctor Oloko, (Iretiola Doyle,) a mental health specialist trying to make up for a security breach in the facility that she manages.
Ramsey Nouah’s casting is key to the wild premise of Crazy People and only a bonafide movie star of his caliber can make the plot work. Having said that, Nouah does not exactly commit to the project, and it isn’t entirely his fault. He is a (mostly) dramatic actor hired to play in the field of preposterousness that isn’t quite comedy, and it is as if he isn’t sure how exactly he should play it. Instead of calibrating his performance at an even level, Nouah swings wildly, hitting and missing, sometime within the same scenes. It isn’t the worst Ramsey Nouah performance committed to film, not when the Roland Russel directed non-comedy, The Accidental Spy exists somewhere in the canon.
Thankfully the second portion of the film snatches the narrative from Nouah and hands it over to Omeruah’s Lucia who proves to be Crazy People’s most interesting character. Omeruah does not have the chops to bring suitable depth to a genuinely complex character, and perhaps Inwang isn’t the person to help her attempt but she does a passable job. Benjamin Touitou as a patient struggling with a psychiatric condition is a welcome highlight.
Films that deal on mental health haven’t always been impressive when it comes to the sensitive portrayal of victims of psychiatric conditions and for all of his good intentions, Inwang is also guilty of this. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde’s Ada Igwe in Alter Ego was a walking cliché and the loonies in Stalker failed to attract much sympathy. Crazy People has its problems with characterization, despite making some solid attempt to fleshen both Nouah and Omeruah’s characters. The stock characters who make up the inmates of the psychiatric home where Doyle’s Dr Oloko manages are ripped straight from cliché land as the writers go for cheap laughs over empathy.
It could have gone very wrong for Crazy People but Inwang ultimately manages to rein his film in and keep viewers engaged till the anti-climactic anti-climax. The film ends rather abruptly but even this is coming to represent a common feature of Moses Inwang films. The man may know how to put on a bearable show, but he is still yet to get the hang of how a solid ending works.