Like a Surgeon


Loners contains exactly three decent jokes, all stuffed in the last 15 minutes; whether they justify the secondhand setup depends on one’s tolerance for seeing Singles transplanted to Prague. Other potential deal-breakers include a cannabis-in-pastry scene and the old saw that kissing is the last favor of the prostitute. (Have the lessons of Pretty Woman been for naught?)

A series of gentle coincidences sets the low-key plot in motion: Petr (Sasa Rarilov) and Hanka (Jitka Schneiderova) have broken up, because it was inevitable, or because a coin toss landed tails. En route to her parents’ house, she and her genially stoned mover (Jiri Machacek) come across a flipped car and deliver its passenger to the hospital, where he’s operated on by an old-flame neurosurgeon (Ivan Trojan) who still hankers after Hanka. Meanwhile, the doctor’s travel agent wife is trying to find a “typical” Czech family to show Japanese tourists, and a few degrees of separation later decides upon Hanka’s parents. Adding to the forced nuttiness is a Macedonian waif searching for UFOs—or her long-lost father. (She posits the existence of 42 civilizations and cribs a Vonnegut joke without attribution, citing a planet where coitus requires seven participants.)

The ungainly, Hanka-stalking doc parodies Kundera’s godlike Unbearable surgeon, invoking the G-man Himself while trying to woo her. But for the most part, this mild soap smells like time out of joint. Released in the Czech Republic in 2000, Loners might well be old hat by the banks of the Vltava, too; here it feels at least a decade late, and one is alarmed by the UFOlogist’s figure of 42—how many more takes on this twice-told tale will follow?

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