Monday, May 1, 2017

LIKE CRAZY: Paolo Virzi's latest comedy/ drama is his best ever (that's going some!)

The film of the year, so far, LIKE CRAZY (La pazza gioia, and not to be confused with the Anton Yelchin/Felicity Jones rom-com from 2011) arrives via that grand Italian master of the off-kilter family dram-com, Paolo Virzi, who has already given us a quintet of terrific movies: My Name Is Tonino, Caterina in the Big City, The First Beautiful Thing, Every Blessed Day, and Human Capital. His latest is his best. And that, movie lovers, is saying something.

Virzi's film (the director/co-writer is shown at right) follows the adventures of a pair of unusual women, both of whom are inmates of a highly progressive psychiatric clinic in a beautiful mountain region in Italy. How we meet them and how they meet each other and slowly bond make up the initial portion of the film. One day, after their work detail is finished but their bus back to the clinic has not arrived, the two board public transportation and then set off for some off-the-books fun.

The remainder of the movie tracks their movements -- and those of their care-takers -- as the women try to reconnect with their former lives, and we, via the very ingeniously inserted flashbacks, fantasies and delightful dialog, learn more and more about exactly who these two really are.

As played by two of Italy's finest actresses, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (above, right, and only recently seen in the dreadful Slack Bay) and Micaela Ramazzotti (above, left, of The First Beautiful Thing), these women will eventually become two of the most memorable characters you'll have cared for on screen. Ms Tedeschi is a whirlwind of motor-mouth amazement as the lady who may (or may not) have links to Italy's power crowd, while Ms Ramazzotti plays the poor, sad but resilient mother of a child who has been taken from her, for reasons we eventually discover.

How both stories and characters play out give these wonderful actresses the opportunity to demonstrate just how very good they are, and both come through with terrific, in-the-moment performances that are simply amazing in their depth, breadth and detail.

What Virzi and his co-writer, Francesca Archibugi, bring to the party is a splendid mix of liveliness and incident that never once flags. You'll have a hard time recalling another movie with as high an energy level as this one put to such smart and delicious use.

The amazing thing is, that amidst all this energy and humor and life being lived at the edge, the movie and its two characters keep deepening until, by the finale, we are moved something fierce. And while TrustMovies often pooh-poohs the use of coincidence in films, the very big one Virzi hands us in his penultimate scene at the beach seems so right and so somehow earned that you may shed those tears as copiously as you need without experiencing a trace of guilt.

Like Crazy -- a title that's ironic, just and true -- is one of those crowd-pleasers that will rope in critics and the art house crowd alike. It's a marvel of a movie that has already walked away with five David Di Donatello awards (Italy's Oscars) and, if that country has the good sense to submit it for our Best Foreign Language Film category, it may walk away with that prize, too.

In the recent British delight, Their Finest, one character explains that the big difference between life and movies is that life really has no purpose, while movies are able to take life and then give it that. Like Crazy, just like Their Finest, puts this theory into magical, meaningful practice.

From Strand Releasing, in Italian with English subtitles and running just under two hours, the film opens this Friday, May 5, in New York City (at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) and in Los Angeles on Friday, May 12, at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7.

Here in South Florida it will open on Friday, May 19, all over the place: in Miami at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, in Fort Lauderdale at the Savor Cinema, at the Cinema Paradiso in Hollywood and at the Living Room Theater in Boca Raton. In the weeks to come Like Crazy will hit another eight or ten theaters across the country. Click here and then click on Screenings to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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