'Beauty in Trouble': Love and Longing, at Odds Biting yet empathetic, Jan Hrebejk's latest is a serious farce. But for all its twists, it's essentially a simple tale about one woman's choice between tumultuous true love or a less passionate — but more comfortable — existence.



'Beauty in Trouble': Love and Longing, at Odds

Trouble in mind: Marcela (Ana Geislerova) works in Prague, but dreams of Tuscany. Menemsha Films hide caption

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Menemsha Films

Trouble in mind: Marcela (Ana Geislerova) works in Prague, but dreams of Tuscany.

Menemsha Films

Beauty in Trouble

  • Director: Jan Hrebejk
  • Genre: Comedy/Drama
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Not yet rated.

To fans of castles and beer, post-communist Prague seems an attractive destination. But for Marcela (Ana Geislerova), the Czech beauty whose troubles drive director Jan Hrebejk's biting, yet empathetic new film Beauty in Trouble, Prague is a place to flee. Now Tuscany, that sounds nice.

Hrebejk works in the currently fashionable European genre that could be called "serious farce"; his scenarios involve overlapping characters and incredible coincidences, but are grounded in believable family relationships.

Beauty in Trouble begins with documentary footage of the floods that submerged the Czech Republic in 2002. Their house destroyed by the deluge, Marcela and her family now live in an apartment adjoining a chop shop, where husband Jarda (Roman Luknar) works cutting down stolen cars for parts.

One day, an accomplice brings a car that's equipped with a transponder. Jarda is quickly arrested, and Marcela and the couple's two kids move in with grandma and her stupendously dislikable boyfriend (Jiri Schmitzer). It's a tense arrangement, so Marcela is susceptible when a dashing, benevolent older man offers to be her protector. He is Evzen (Josef Abrham), a Czech emigre who lives the good life at his Tuscan vineyard. He is also, by the way, the man whose swiped Volvo sent Jarda to jail.

This complicated scenario is almost straightforward compared to such previous Hrebejk films as Divided We Fall, in which an infertile couple in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia somehow produces a child, and Up and Down, which involved a black-market baby, racist soccer hooligans and an inoperable brain tumor. For all its twists, this story is simpler: It's about a woman's choice between tumultuous true love or a less passionate, but more comfortable existence. The Czech Republic equals the former; Italy offers the latter.

Marcela's journey is punctuated with songs by Prague chanteuse Raduza (including a Czech setting of the Robert Graves poem that provides the film's title) and a few Glen Hansard/Marketa Irglova tunes also heard in Once. (Beauty in Trouble actually made its Czech debut in 2006, before that Oscar-darling musical was released.)

No song or poetic allusion, however, can guide Marcela as she wavers between her old life and a possible new one. In this heavily populated movie, she is essentially alone. That's why Beauty in Trouble, while not Hrebejk's most complex film, is his most touching.