LIKE CRAZY (“La Pazza Gioia,” Paolo Virzi, 2016, Italy / France)

LA PAZZA GIOIA || 2016, Italy / France || Comedy || Directed by – Paolo Virzi / Produced by – Marco Belardi / Written by – Paolo Virzi, Francesca Archibugi / Music by – Carlo Virzi / Cinematography – Vladan Radovic / Starring – Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Micaela Ramazzotti / Running time: 118 mins.

lapazzagioiaLike Crazy starts off in a mental institution in the sunny Italian countryside, a setting that seems to have come out of an Impressionist painting. One of its inhabitants, Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), immediately steals the scene. She is a loudmouth from a wealthy family background who walks around as if she owns the place. She attempts to connect with a newly arrived woman, Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti), whose estrangement from her son resulted in a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt. The tattooed and introverted Donatella could not be more different from Beatrice, and at one point in the beginning of the film, Donatella plainly tells her that she does not like her. Ultimately, she is convinced to flee the institution by Beatrice’s promise that they will go see her child.

During their trip, they will overcome their differences and in a less than conventional way, the film will portray the subtleness with which their connection will result in a very meaningful friendship. This friendship is what drives the film more than the delicate theme of mental illness itself. Director Paolo Virzi is far more interested in an honest examination of the human, and especially female, side of the story. In such regards, Like Crazy also automatically places the male sex as the source of all the leading female characters’ psychological troubles – as a result, the film also implies the negative and universal effect of masculinity.

Virzi’s choice allows him not to confront the theme of mental illness. The institution itself, the higher authority of the film, is depicted in a largely sympathetic way, despite the presence of a few more sinister figures and the awareness of its heavy use of medication. This lessens the presence of the threat in the film’s narrative, or a particularly critical voice, and freely points the finger towards the delicate nature of human conditions. Likewise, the film’s lighter side balances the moments in which the more dramatic and personal innermost traumas of the two characters’ are revealed. This is particularly true of the part of the moment in which Beatrice and Donatella are separated during their Thelma & Louise road-trip and something in the tone of the film changes, becomes more dark. Here, Donatella and Beatrice, alone, are left to confront aspects of their existence that trouble them. Even here, however, this emotional and psychological awakening, a true turning point in the film, is instigated by the friendships shared by the two.

The friendship between the two heterosexual women, in this film, replaces the depiction of heterosexual romanticism that is at the heart of most movies. This also shapes the fairytale like look and childlike feelings of Like Crazy. Why else would the film be accentuated by the passionate notes of Gino Paoli’s “Senza Fine”? Why else would the Lancia Appia, a symbol of the universally beloved imagery of Italy in the 50’s and 60’s (therefore the universally beloved Italian cinema of those times as well)?

Bruni Tedeschi, of the two actresses, truly stands out, not least of all because the eccentricity of her character is the fulfilment of her career thus far, during which she has made a name for herself in the roles of flimsy, whimsical and, often, wealthy women – her previous collaboration with Virzi in Human Capital could represent the dramatic side of Bruni Tedeschi’s cinematic persona. – 4/5

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