Donatella and Beatrice reside in a psychiatric facility in Tuscany. They have very different life stories, but a chance to escape brings them together in an adventure that will change their lives forever and will help them realize the beauty in imperfection.Written by
To define madness starts by defining normalcy. 'La pazza gioia' (the English title is 'Like Crazy'), the film written and directed by Paolo Virzì in 2016 has as main heroines two women hospitalized in a sanatorium for psychiatric diseases. In general, films of this kind are characterized by an oppressive and depressing atmosphere, same as life in this kind of institutions is known to be. Not 'La pazza gioia'. To start with, the film present a candid and sympathetic point of view towards what is happening in the villa in Tuscany where the heroines are hospitalized. The story has rhythm and humor. As we get to know the two women, we begin to understand the motivations of their actions, from escaping from the closed (or semi-closed) premises they are constrained to the past with the actions that brought them into the situation of being psychiatric patients. Up to a point, the female 'road movie' formula with two women running away from their own destiny quite faithfully respects the formula in the best known classic original 'Thelma & Louise', with the characters dominating the film here as well, largely due to outstanding acting. The result is original and exciting.
At first glance, the two women are very different from each other. Beatrice Morandini (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) assumes aristocratic manners and creates an imaginary world around her own person, a world in which she is the rich and the dominant one. Donatella Morelli (Micaela Ramazzotti) is closed in herself, she always seems in danger of self-harming, obviously hiding tremendous trauma. One is chic and neat even when her dresses fall badly, the other neglects herself. One is blonde, the other is brunette. The institution in which they are hospitalized seems liberal, tolerant, trying to help. Their running away is not the result of despair but rather the pursuit of a promordial instinct of the desire for freedom. However, the outside world turns out to be much more cruel than the one in the constrained space from which they had fled. Confronting the reality and the personal histories of each of them, which are gradually revealed to us, is more traumatic than the treatment inside. It would be tragic if everything wasn't approached in a comic register which is, well ... crazy. Undoubtedly, this is the right word.
The roles of lunatics often provide opportunities for remarkable acting performances, but it seems to me that in this film the two actresses have achieved something extraordinary. These are two roles of this kind, but the two actresses not only do not eclipse each other, but complement each other wonderfully in a relationship in which their traumas and despairs come together and generate emotion without falling into pathos or cheap melodrama. However, the film also features numerous scenes in which the comic of situations and characters offers opportunities for healthy laughter. The sunny and picturesque landscape of Tuscany that we know from so many films with touristic aromas provides the background of a corrupt and ruthless world, where the only chance and last refuge of the heroines is the psychiatric institution from which they fled. Paolo Virzì manages with 'La pazza gioia' a remarkable performance - a 'good feeling' movie about madness and despair.
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