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LIKE CRAZY – Motor Madness

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Directed by Paolo Virzi
Starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Micaela Ramazzotti, Valentina Carnelutti

7/10

Trapped in a secluded Tuscan villa, might sound like an ideal situation for some, but for Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) it is bordering on unbearable. It not only stops her from embarking on grand adventures with fabulously wealthy people, but her fellow inmates of the psychiatric clinic (which the villa has been converted into) don’t always get along with her. When a new patient arrives she sees someone that could be her friend. Even though Donatella’s (Micaela Ramazzotti) obvious depressive tendencies and previous suicide attempts making her the exact opposite of the manic Beatrice. Together they form a strange pair of friends, and when the opportunity for escape arises, both set off on a quest to deal with aspects of their past life.

Like Crazy lies in a strange hinterland. At times it delves into an almost fantastical realm as the hi-jinx filled road trip drives the two across Italy. At others it plunges into a world of mental crises and a healthcare system under immense strain. In part this is a reflection of the two main characters, and the extremes of their mental health issues. Therefore it is utterly reliant upon the two actresses to accurately convey those characters. So, through the combination of director, script, and cast, the perilous proposition of a comedy based on two escapees from a psychiatric facility actually works out.

Part of this is an understanding of the health issues involved, and treating those with respect and realism, rather than just for laughs. Here writer/ director Paolo Virzi (and co-writer Francesca Archibugi) demonstrate a depth of research, through preliminary interviews with both staff and patients in the health system. It gives the two stars a realistic grounding for the characters, allowing a framework to build on. Contrast this to the recent problematic portrayal of mental health issues in Split (and complaints levelled against the film by sufferers and support groups), and you can see a world of difference.

The most enticing of the two characters is Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s Beatrice. She exudes the manic energy that pervades Beatrice, giving the character fire and life. There is rarely a quiet moment when she is on screen, with a constant stream of conversation being unleashed by Tedeschi. She is aristocratic to the point of arrogance (and often well beyond), but she still manages to capture a softer, caring side to the character. By contrast Micaela Ramazzotti’s Donatella is often rendered sluggish by depression, at times led around by Beatrice like a husk of a human being. It’s a harder role to sell, certainly less flashy, but one that Ramazzotti gives a core of iron to.

Ultimately it is those extremes of emotion that makes Like Crazy. The audience is dragged along for the ride, experiencing ludicrous comedy and emotional tragedy. It may wane at times, bogged down by a couple of less successful scenes, but it will then drag itself back up, buoyed by the solid performances of the two leads. Hence it may lack the almost clinical precision of Virzi’s previous outing, Human Capital, but makes up for this with a more audience friendly romp. The end result is a pleasant and touching tale, with more than a little boisterousness along the way.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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