Directed by Jan Hrebejk. With Ana Geislerova, Roman Luknar, Jana Brejchova, and Jirí Schmitzer. No MPAA rating (strong sexuality, profanity and adult situations). In Czech with subtitles. Playing at: Ritz Five.
With a title taken from a Robert Graves poem and a story that switches back and forth between worlds of wealth and comfort - and a lovely Tuscan villa - and the dreary lives of working folk in the grittier precincts of Prague, Beauty in Trouble offers a meditation on the legacies of communism and the lure of capitalism, but also on the human need for love, connection and family.
Directed by Jan Hrebejk, who ably shifts from comedy to tragedy and back again, the film stars Anna Geislerova as Marcela, a hard beauty with an independent mind and diminished means. The 2002 flood that ravaged parts of the Czech Republic left Marcela and her husband's house in ruins. Jarda (Roman Luknar), her spouse, has resorted to running a chop shop for stolen vehicles. When one set of wheels gets delivered with its satellite security system still intact, Jarda is arrested and carted off to prison, leaving Marcela and her two children with little money and no place to live.
After crowding in with her mother and a creepy stepfather, Marcela's salvation arrives in the guise of Evzen (Josef Abrham), an older, wealthy gentleman (think a Euro version of George Lucas) who happens to be the owner of the stolen Volvo that did Jarda in. Understandably attracted to Marcela, and seemingly of a benevolent spirit, Evzen offers first his empty Prague apartment to the woman and her children, and then his Tuscan farmhouse, replete with swimming pool, vineyard and cook.
And Marcela offers herself in return.
Beauty in Trouble subtly pulls the audience in opposing directions: Is Marcela unremittingly mercenary? Are Evzen's intentions all that noble? Is the strong link between Marcela and her husband - sent off to jail - based on love, on the bond of parenting, or simply on a furious sexual attraction? (There's some fairly furious sex going on in the film.)
Whatever the answers, the film lays out its questions in an appealingly provocative manner.
- Steven Rea