Micaela Ramazzotti, left, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in Like Crazy (Strand Releasing)

Ah, l’Italia. A place so charming it can make an episode of out-of-control mental illness look like a breeze. The country casts its golden spell over Like Crazy, an ebullient and exhausting Italian take on Thelma & Louise. Even the shadow of a tragic backstory can’t put the brakes on this high-energy film, which forces its two plucky, fragile heroines to careen from one manic and sometimes quite funny predicament to the next.

Lean, blonde Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, moving in a staccato swish and talking impossibly fast, plays Beatrice, a self-styled noblewoman who can’t stop name-dropping, showing off her A-list connections (“Bill Clinton was charming, but Hillary was a bitch!”), telling whoppers, asking nosy questions, and generally making a nuisance of herself. Beatrice’s incessant and unwanted opinions annoy her fellow patients at the mental hospital where she is confined, which isn’t as bad as it sounds—the manicomio happens to be an elegantly decaying palazzo once owned by Beatrice’s family.

The pushy aristocrat becomes fascinated by a new arrival from the lower classes, the traumatized, feral, and beautiful Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti), and brashly poses as a doctor to extract her confidences. Their relationship develops into a prickly mutual symbiosis. Soon Beatrice and Donatella do a runner, fleeing the asylum on a public bus. A wild adventure of brazen scams, stolen cars, sexy pickups, and a painful reckoning with the past has begun. Beatrice craves the high life and can talk her way in—and out—of just about anything, and lost Donatella seems warily content to go along with the ride.

Some scenes of Beatrice’s sheer nuttiness seem over the top at first but make a dreadful kind of sense when it sinks in how off-kilter she really is and how much pain her condition has caused her (and others). As written, Donatella may not be a strong enough foil for such an irrepressible troublemaker, but Donatella’s story offers a few moments of tenderness and quiet in a movie full of farcical chases and impulsive bursts of madcappery.

A rackety cast of secondary characters enliven the film as sleazeballs, grifters, a sharp social worker, and a feisty nun make the most of their moments in the sun. And Italy steps in to bathe the movie in appealing local color. Ritzy restaurants, working-class boardwalks, and a cheesy strip club provide a mise-en-scène that sets off Beatrice’s tantrums and Donatella’s anxiety perfectly.

Like Crazy falters at times handling the heartbreak of mental illness. Its boisterous abrasiveness can be hard to take, yet it’s suffused with just enough native warmth and forgiveness to make it feel something like a certain kind of Italian vacation, frustrating but fondly remembered.

Directed by Paolo Virzì
Written by Francesca Archibugi and Virzì
Released by Strand Releasing
Italy/France. 118 min. Not rated
With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti