Beauty in Trouble
Aña Geislerová, Jana Brejchová, Emília Vásáryová, Josef Abrhám, Roman Luknár / Fiction / Czech
Beauty in trouble flees to the good angel/On whom she can rely/To pay her cab-fare, run a steaming bath/Poultice her bruised eye...
The title of Jan Hrebejk’s graceful, lively relationship drama is drawn from the poem by Robert Graves, which tells of an endangered woman’s search for a safe haven:
“Beauty in trouble flees to the good angel/On whom she can rely/To pay her cab-fare, run a steaming bath/Poultice her bruised eye... “
The beauty here is Marcela (Aña Geislerová), who draws plenty of admiring glances but doesn’t have a lot of luck. Left homeless by the Prague flood of 2002, and all out of love for her petty criminal husband, she takes her two kids and moves in with her mother. There she finds new problems, in the form of her mother’s intolerable bully of a boyfriend, Richie (played in a memorably monstrous turn by Jirí Schmitzer). Marcela is running out of options – at least until she encounters prosperous businessman Evzen Benes (Josef Abrhám), a victim of one of her husband’s scams. As his surname suggests, Evzen is the good angel the poem describes; he offers not just stability, but luxury. We yearn for a happy ending – but is steady adoration and financial support enough to satisfy a woman who has hitherto thrived on passion and conflict? Then there’s the social mismatch between Evzen and his dreamgirl. On their first date, he looks on, aghast, as she blithely mixes his classy choice of wine with Coca-Cola.
Written by Hrebejk’s regular collaborator Petr Jarchovsk´y, Beauty in Trouble is a triumph of characterisation and mood, darkly and delicately observant about human lust and frailty. When Evzen first clocks Marcela, it’s not her raw vulnerability that draws his eye so much as her figure (there’s a beautifully-played moment when they first meet: she raises her arms, he checks out her breasts, and his compassion is suddenly roused). Marcela, too, is thrown off course by her appetites: her brain may be determined to reject her no-good husband, but her body has other ideas. With its crisp cinematography, its wise, honest humour, and its frank acknowledgement of the chaos wrought by sex and money, this is the finest film yet from one of Europe’s most consistently impressive writer/director teams.
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