Beautiful Shades of Gray

"Beauty in Trouble," with Anna Geislerová, is a finely nuanced film. (Menemsha Films)

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Fans of the poet Robert Graves will recognize the title of Jan Hrebejk's "Beauty in Trouble," which was inspired by Graves's verse of the same name. Anna Geislerová plays the title character, a gorgeous Prague travel agent named Marcela who flees her abusive husband (Roman Luknár) with her two children and eventually winds up with the impossibly wealthy and good-hearted Evzen (Josef Abrhám), who owns a vineyard in Italy and vows to take care of her every need.

The Trouble for this unsettled Beauty is her unbridled attraction to the ex who brutalizes her, as well as a stepfather (Jirí Schmitzer) who plays a persistent and discomfiting role in the lives of her and her children. Hrebejk, who made the wonderful "Up and Down" in 2004, returns to his native Czech Republic (and a fabulous villa in Tuscany) to create a vivid, nuanced and sweetly forgiving study in moral ambiguity. (Glen Hansard contributed two songs to "Beauty in Trouble" later made famous in "Once," creating a weird sonic disconnect.)

With the exception of the seraphic Evzen (who even has his moments), Hrebejk draws his characters in often confounding shades of gray, as they continue to revert to their flaws despite their best efforts to reform. Whether they're navigating a recently flooded Prague or the pristine waters of a Tuscan swimming pool, the fiends and angels who populate "Beauty in Trouble" are like so many scorpions explaining why they sting the fabled frog trying to help them: "It's my nature."

-- Ann Hornaday

Beauty in Trouble Unrated, 110 minutes Contains strong sexuality, profanity and adult situations. In Czech with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Beauty in Trouble Unrated, 110 minutes Contains strong sexuality, profanity and adult situations. In Czech with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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