Beauty in Trouble

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Opens: Friday, June 13 (Menemsha Films)

"Beauty in Trouble" represents another strong effort from Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky, the Czech directing/writing team previously responsible for such acclaimed films as "Divided We Fall" and "Up and Down." While this family drama about a young woman trying to keep her family together during financial hardship and personal crises veers into melodramatic territory at times, its narrative flaws are more than outweighed by its well-observed characterizations and emotional truth.

The beauty referred to by the title-it's taken from a Robert Graves poem-is Marcela (Anna Geislerova), a sexy young mother of two children whose fortunes have suffered since the devastating flood in Prague several years earlier. Things become even worse when her auto chop shop owner husband Jarda (Roman Luknar), with whom she has a contentious but powerfully sexual relationship, is thrown into jail after a stolen car is tracked to him.

She and the kids retreat to the cramped apartment of her loving mother (Jana Brejchova); this unfortunately puts them into close proximity with Marcela's supremely nasty and bullying stepfather (the riveting Jiri Schmitzer), who proceeds to make life miserable for the entire family. Marcela, meanwhile, strikes up a friendship with the car's owner (Josef Abrham), an older and wealthy Czech emigre who has established a successful wine business in Italy.

She soon finds herself torn between the two men, unable to fully shake her sexual addiction to her husband but desperate for the sort of financial security her kindly new suitor can provide for her and her family.

Jarchovsky's expert screenplay provides a welcome freshness in its characterizations, with all of the principal figures acting in unexpected ways as the plot progresses. The performers rise to the challenge, delivering deeply felt, complex performances that induce empathy for their characters despite their often less than stellar behavior.

No easy resolutions are reached, as the final sequence, revealing Marcela's divided feelings even after she has ostensibly made her romantic choice, demonstrates.

The film benefits greatly from a musical score that includes songs performed by the Czech singer Raduza and several haunting numbers sung by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, including their Oscar winning "Falling Slowly."

Cast: Ana Geislerova, Jana Brejchova, Emilia Vasaryova, Josef Abrham, Roman Luknar, Jiri Schmitzer, Jan Hrusinsky; Director: Jan Hrebejk; Screenwriter: Petr Jachovsky; Executive producer: Ondrej Trojan; Producer: Total HelpART T.H.A.; Director of photography: Jan Malir; Production designer: Milan Bycek; Music: Ales Brezina; Costume designer: Katarina Bielikova; Editor: Vladimir Barak

No Rating, 110 min.


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