Like Crazy

LIKE CRAZY (La Pazza Gioia). Starring: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Micaela Ramazzotti. Also, Valentina Carnelutti and Tommaso Ragno. Directed by Paolo Virzi. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language). 116 min.

This sub-titled, Italian drama-comedy tells the story of two inmates, who escape from a mental institution, and enjoy their time together. It is a tale of warm friendship between two women, both of whom have been diagnosed as "mentally ill", and who ordinarily would never have found each other. The film won Italian screen awards for Best Direction, Acting, and Scripting in 2016.

The two have very different backgrounds, and are being treated at the Villa Biondi, a well established, up-market, Catholic psychiatric clinic for women located in Tuscany, Italy.

Beatrice Valdirana (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is an extroverted, wealthy woman, who lies pathologically all the time to impress others, and believes (mistakenly) that she has been on intimate terms with famous world leaders. She has been deserted by family and friends for her incessantly extravagant behaviour. The other woman is Donatella Morelli (Micaela Ramazzotti), a fragile, anorexic introvert, who shrouds herself in anxiety, painfully aware of the tragic darkness she has experienced in her past. Donatella is the kind of person who wants to hide her face, while Beatrice uses everything she has - including both her body and her mind - to stridently emphasise what she insists is her rightful place in Society.

Beatrice and Donatella know that they are categorised as insane, but want to live in the outside world with others who have not been so labelled. "If I am nuts", one of them says, "what are you?".

 They team up to give each other emotional support, and they board a bus that takes them away from Villa Biondi. They are pursued vigorously by their keepers, and they embark on a road trip that reminds one of the comic happenings of "Thelma and Louise" (1991). The free-spirited identity of the two women is presented strongly at every turn, but personal hurt, and loneliness always lie behind what they do.

 The scripting of the movie is sharp and observant, though there are some pointedly irreverent religious scenes. Beatrice's sharply comments that her parents "hate each other politely", while the inmates of Villa Biondi turn Mass into a very different kind of experience for them so as to attract the attention of their good-looking priest. Beatrice's self-delusion is never hidden, and excellent cinematography keeps the beauty of the Tuscan countryside never far away. Basically, the movie is a high-octane romp by two very talented comediennes. It intermingles caricature with social realism, takes the viewer on a wild ride, and exposes us to touching drama at the same time. The film is directed by Paolo Virzi as a fast-moving portrayal of a friendship that is emotional and funny.

 The film's chief themes canvass loosely the loss of freedom in the treatment of mentally ill people, the nature of unpredictable friendships, what being labelled "crazy" means, and how perceptions of mental illness can subtly (and not so subtly) reinforce loss of spontaneity, and lack of love.

 When Beatrice promises to take Donatella to her estranged son, whom she allowed to be adopted in the past, the film takes on a serious dramatic tone in a very moving way. Donatella wants her son back, but she knows that is impossible. The film mixes happiness with sadness freely, and does so sentimentally to surprising effect.

 This is a film that comically addresses its themes in an entertaining, and bitter-sweet way. All the time, it is is anchored to attention-grabbing performances of two gifted actresses, who do everything they can to make the film an enjoyable experience for others to share.

 Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Hi Gloss Entertainment

Released November 24th., 2016.

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