Beauty in Trouble
Czech director Jan Hrebejk’s trying foray into soapy realism has at its center the kind of provincial hard-luck lass who shows boob at a funeral and sweetens sauvignon blanc with a dousing of soda pop. Marcela (Ana Geislerová) has crazy sex — and that’s about it — with her mechanic husband; mired in a circumstantial shitstorm, they struggle to repair the damage that a 2002 flood did to their home. Marcela is forced to move her two children in with her mother and stepfather (Jirí Schmitzer), whose unremitting awfulness overburdens what dramatic momentum there is in the film. With her husband eventually thrown in jail for a desperate act of car theft, Marcela and her kids are subjected to her stepfather’s endless harassment; lording it over his grimy little fiefdom, he still turns on the obsequious sleaze whenever his wife is around. “We’re washed up, but they have a chance,” he opines when the wealthy man who falls for Marcela — despite the fact that her husband stole his car — offers to take her and the kids to his villa in Tuscany. A spiritual selfishness and scheming distrust permeate everyone but the kids and the expat. And Hrebejk settles for unsatisfying allusions to the Czech experience that never break through the thick haze of melodrama.