A paperback copy of a Milan Kundera novel, held in the hands of a Czech expat, briefly appears in Beauty In Trouble. Its a fleeting moment (and easy to miss), but its also an important gesture of respect from director Jan Hrebejk. Like the best of Kunderas fiction, Beauty In Trouble explores the ways that politics, history, and economics can meet in the bedrooms of Prague.
The title's Beauty is Marcela (Ana Geislerová), a down-on-her-luck mother of two. The Trouble is her husband Jarda (Roman Luknár), an unlikable brute who's resorted to stealing and chopping cars as a full time profession. Cynical and thick-skinned, theyre scraping by in a world diminished by the Soviet Union's failure and a disastrous flood. When Jarda lands in jail for a stolen Volvo, Marcela gets mixed up with the cars owner, the wealthy and intellectual Evzen Benes (Josef Abrhám).
Marcela rejects Evzens advances at first, unimpressed by his culinary knowledge and generosity, but his lure is undeniable. Hes a soft-spoken and smart foil to her husbands brutish character. Evzen left Prague for Italy in the 60s and seems untouched by the dingy shadow of communism that lingers over Marcela's and Jardas lives.
Though Evzens money and genteel demeanor bring him together with Marcela, the results are not a Pretty Woman-style fairy tale. Petr Jarchovskýs script examines how sexual desire can disagree with good intentions, raising realistic and startling questions about the love triangle between Marcela, Jarda and Evzen. In a move that might annoy some, the end of the film doesnt resolve the story or the questions at all, opting instead to leave the viewers with a sort of ambiguous resonance.
Beauty In Trouble is one of those rare films that feels laboriously detailed and meaningful while still moving at a steady, watchable pace. Aside from a few ill-chosen English language ballads on the soundtrack, and a couple of needlessly mundane scenes, the film gracefully navigates the deep waters of these troubled characters.
Beauty In Trouble 4 stars Directed by Jan Hrebejk. Stars Ana Geislerová, Josef Abrhám. Not rated. Opens Fri., Feb. 20. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
(Photo courtesy Menemsha Films)
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