Like Crazy [La pazza gioia]

(Italy 2016)

The festival program called Paolo Virzì’s Like Crazy a “hysterical, edgy comedy,” which is not entirely accurate (http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/film/like-crazy/). For sure, the premise is fun: two female mental patients escape on a city bus and head for an adventure that includes shopping, stealing cars, gambling, clubbing, and getting a sort of revenge on some of those who did them wrong. Plus, the patient who instigates the caper, MILFy Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), is a hilarious character: an imperious namedropping motormouth who fabricates lie upon lie to get herself into (and out of) one shady shenanigan after another, she steamrolls everyone in her path for frivolity—more medication, booze, food, attention—and then condescends to them like they’re peons. Think of an Italian version of Patsy, Eddie, and Newhart‘s Stephanie rolled into one. Beatrice’s mere presence puts everyone on edge, not the least of whom are the nuns who run Villa Biondi, the mental hospital where she’s admitted indefinitely. The film is loaded with funny moments that poke fun at sex, religion, family, age, society, and status. There’s also a clever reference to Thelma and Louise.

For all its humor, though, Like Crazy has a sad underlying story: Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti), a fragile wounded bird whom Beatrice drafts into her escapade, has a terribly dark past that includes trying to kill her infant son. The film takes a serious turn when Beatrice sets out to reunite him with Donatella. The two women become a support system, with the former serving as the latter’s rock until she discovers that she’s stronger than she thought even with her imperfections. Bruni Tedeschi and Ramazzotti are equally strong, and they operate with a nicely calibrated balance of outrageous and desperate. Aside from a rather random interlude with Beatrice’s ex-husband (Bob Messini), the story plays out damn near perfectly. Like Crazy is a joy but also very touching. My eyes were moist by the end—that caught me off guard, in a good way.

Side note: Vladan Radovic’s cinematography is gorgeously warm, bright, and summery throughout the film—a contrast that becomes more apparent as the mood here gets heavier. It’s a very nice touch.

116 minutes
Not rated

(AMC River East) B+

Chicago International Film Festival

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