Beauty in Trouble
The Mother of All Drama
Starring: Anna Geislerová, Roman Luknár
By Allie Willis
Beauty in Trouble – loosely adapted from the Robert Graves poem – marks yet another successful collaboration between long-time director and writer duo Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovský. Playing on the strengths of previous partnerships, namely Divided We Fall and Up and Down, Beauty in Trouble nonchalantly observes the tumultuous life of a woman torn between her unbridled attraction to her jailed lout of a husband and her desperate desire to escape a trying existence and provide for her children with ease. The star of the film is, undoubtedly, Anna Geislerová, who takes on the role of the dilemma-ridden wife and mother of two, Marcela. Geislerová’s striking appearance involuntarily casts her as a woman who knows what she wants and who is worthy of better, and as Marcela, Geislerová incorporates these preconceived notions into a well-formed and multi-faceted opportunistic character.
The film, dually set in dreary Prague flats and dreamy Tuscan villas, epitomizes the juxtapositional life Marcela begins to live. Plunged into this existence by the 2002 floods, Marcela is living in cramped quarters above her husband’s chop shop when the film opens. Drowning in despair and drama, Marcela’s only salvation lies in physical love with her hooligan husband, Jarda. The saying “things must get worse before they get better” steeps through this portion of the film as Jarda – played by Roman Luknár – is arrested and jailed on charges of stealing and fraud.
However, it is as Marcela waits to vehemently scold her jailed husband that irony and fate enter. Also waiting in the police station is Evzen Benes, an older, handsome, expatriate with a gentle disposition and a generous nature. Played expertly by Josef Abrhám, Evzen Benes embodies the kind of debonair chivalry only a refined gentleman possesses. A wonderfully casual and seemingly inconsequential encounter between Marcela and Evzen occurs, which further segregates the harshness and unfairness of life.
This unfairness is developed even more thoroughly through the introduction of Marcela’s family, whom she unwillingly turns to for shelter. Her timid and feeble mother played by Jana Brejchová is starkly contrasted with her lecherous and villainous stepfather, Uncle Richie, played by JirÌ Schmitzer. It is here that the film diverges from – yet still develops – Marcela’s desperate existence. Uncle Richie, a leering and manipulative diabetic with vileness comparable to the plague, steals the spotlight with incessant grouching and disgusting inappropriateness, making daily existence unbearable for Marcela and her children.
Ultimately a single mother trying to protect and provide for two children, Marcela is forced to take alternate action, which conveniently comes in the form of unabridged generosity from Evzen Benes – extravagant sushi dinners, an envious plethora of Italian wine, and eventually solace and companionship in a luxurious Tuscan villa. Regardless of the seeming ease of life, however, Marcela faces her most difficult torments and temptations while lapping at the hand of luxury. Torn between a life of assurance and ease with Evzen and fiery attraction and sexuality with Jarda, Marcela struggles within herself as she weighs the pros and cons of provision and primal preference.
Beauty in Trouble is a heartfelt and realistic film; the core faults of humanity are reviewed without criticism or judgment. A richly textured story of romance, desperation, lust, wealth, and crime, Beauty in Trouble is a thoughtful examination of duality in life. With glimpses of hedonism, self-destruction, obsessive religion, and explicit sexuality, Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovský have again stunned audiences into quiet submission through the verisimilitude of performances, subtly strong script, and extraordinarily relatable human interaction.