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Beauty in Trouble: Soapy Realism

The center of Beauty in Trouble, Czech director Jan Hrebejk's trying foray into soapy realism, is 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 Risa (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 Risa'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," Risa 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. The Velvet Revolution, it seems, left behind some serious chafing; a spiritual selfishness and scheming distrust permeate everyone but the kids and the expat. Unfortunately, Hrebejk settles for unsatisfying allusions to the Czech experience that never break through the thick haze of melodrama to make his case with any conviction.


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