The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Beauty in Trouble

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Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Beauty in Trouble

It’s got a fairytale title and a tagline which proclaims: “About sex, money and a good man”.  The title comes from the Robert Graves poem; the sex, money and a good man part comes from the dissolution of a dysfunctional marriage so that a woman can be “rescued” by another man (wealthy and kind, of course).

Marcela (Ana Geislerova) has a brutish, criminal husband whose allure has been whittled down to an animal magnetism that’s only apparent in the bedroom.  Jarda (Roman Luknar) runs a garage that strips and renovates stolen cars.  He merely tolerates his wife and disrespects his mother Liba (Emilia Vasaryova), a former schoolteacher now involved too religiously with her church (pun intended).

Floods have ruined miles of Prague neighborhoods, leaving the uninsured family living in squalor.  Needless to say, Marcela is monumentally unhappy.  

The couple’s two children, Lucina (Michaela Mrvikova) and Kuba (Adam Misik) witness the venomous fights and then paradoxically overhear the furious lovemaking of their parents.  They hold out no hope for a reconciliation.  Neither does Marcela, who moves herself and the kids in with her mother.

Zdena (Jana Brejchova) is married to Marcela’s stepfather Risa (Jiri Schmitzer).  While Zdena is a gentle, loving presence, her husband Risa has all of the charm of a tightly coiled rattlesnake.  There is conflict between Risa, the children and Marcela.  Adding to the tension is Marcela’s mother-in-law, Liba, who stages a type of sit-in in her car, outside of Risa’s house pleading with Marcela to come home with the children.

Meanwhile, Jarda’s illegal chop shop gets raided and he’s sentenced to a prison term.  While visiting him in jail, Marcela meets Mr. Benes (Josef Abrham) a wealthy 60-something with an estate in Tuscany as well as an empty house in Prague.  His mother’s death has made him return from Italy to sell it, but he holds off to accommodate a tenant and her dying mother.  As it turns out, one of Jarda’s stolen cars belonged to Benes.

Benevolent almost to a fault, Benes offers Marcela a way out of her predicament by inviting her and the children to move into the vacant top floor of his local house.  Of course, Marcela eventually repays him with sex, the children being in the familiar position of seeing her step into a room for the night with a man, although this time, it’s not their father.  Not the best role model of a mother, but at least they’re away from the bitter and verbally abusive Risa.

Zdena and Risa approve of the match despite the couple’s age difference (Marcela is only 33).  Money, it seems, is the answer and the justification to every situation.  A tiny
side plot has Benes being extorted by people he has been kind to in the past, an ironic injustice toward the man who tries to help those around him whenever he can.

Then Jarda gets out of jail, a tragic even occurs, and Marcela has a decision to make.  The rest of the film, and there’s not much left after that, follows her thought process to its lackluster conclusion.

It’s an age-old story, and Director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky (Cosy Dens) make sure it stays that way.  The plot is somewhat unimaginative and the main character’s role in it is a cliché devoid of insight or redemption.  Although sex scenes are mercifully brief, they show that all of Marcela’s worth is tied to her sex appeal.  Brains have nothing to do with it.

Ana Geislerova does the best she can with a role that calls upon her looks and little else.  Jana Brejchova and Emilia Vasaryova are long-suffering, aging versions of Marcela, seemingly helpless without men in their lives to control them.

Female vocalist Raduza appears in a few scenes to sing some pertinent lyrics when it appears they’re needed.

Interestingly enough, the three male leads are fleshed out more thoroughly, especially Jiri Schmitzer as Risa, the cruel, yet sometimes sensible stepfather, and Josef Abrham as Benes, the wealthy “rescuer.”  Roman Luknar’s Jarda remains a stubborn Neanderthal, but even he shows signs of self-awareness toward the film’s end.

Will luxury win out over squalor?  Wealth over hot sex?  A Tuscany Villa over a Prague apartment?  How does Beauty get herself out of trouble? You’ll have to see for yourself.  That is, if you even care.

A Menemsha Films DVD release; Czech with English subtitles

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