A romantic tragicomedy with a pair of charismatic leads, "Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia" is a remarkably faithful adaptation of a bestselling novel that doesn't go the distance. Opening promise wilts away in an overly long pic sans fireworks, and the tacked-on coda is more confusing than conclusive.

A romantic tragicomedy with a pair of charismatic leads, “Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia” is a remarkably faithful adaptation of a bestselling novel that doesn’t go the distance. Opening promise wilts away in an overly long pic sans fireworks, and the tacked-on coda is more confusing than conclusive. Foreign appeal looks slight.

Novel of the same name by Michal Viewegh (the most popular contempo Czech author) is a postmodern story wrapped around a triangle of forbidden romance and infidelity. Scripter Vaclav Sasek and director Petr Koliha manage to capture the voice and intentions of the author but fall short on the easy bit — the love story

Teacher-cum-novelist Oscar (Ondrej Pavelka) gets an offer he can’t refuse from local bordello Mafioso Karel Kral (Milan Lasica). For a fat wad of money, Oscar becomes writing tutor to Karel’s sullen beauty of a daughter, Beata (Anna Geislerova), who’s brooding over Dad’s having put the kibosh on her affair with his unsavory business partner.

When Oscar’s wife, Andela (Vilma Cibulkova), and daughter are away on vacation, Beata’s mood brightens, and soon she and Oscar are going at it whenever half an opportunity arises. Oscar gets her a teaching job at his school but she then dumps him, going through a series of new beaus and social protest movements of the moment before crashing her sports car.

Though magically fragile and photogenic in an early Mia Farrow mode, Geislerova, who was in Jan Sverak’s 1995 road movie “The Ride,” is done in by an itty-bitty voice and Beata’s myopically self-involved character. Pavelka’s puppy-dog cheerfulness as Oscar is endearing but completely wrong for an affair that needs to sizzle onscreen. Younger cast members perform with far more integrity, from schoolroom bit players to the unaffected performance by Klara Senkirova, as Oscar’s daughter, and Kristyna Novakova’s more complex portrayal of Agata, Beata’s younger sister.

Extensive use of close-ups and medium shots give pic a claustrophobic feel. Tech credits are generally solid

Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia

Czech

Production

A Bontonfilm release (in Czech Republic) of a Czech Television production. (International sales: Czech TV, Prague.) Produced by Cestimir Kopecky. Directed by Petr Koliha. Screenplay, Vaclav Sasek, based on the novel by Michal Viewegh.

Crew

Camera (color), Vladimir Smutny; editor, Jiri Brozek; music, Michal Jelinek; production and costume design, Ondrej Nikvasil; sound, Karel Jaros; Reviewed at Blanik Cinema, Prague, May 14, 1996. (In Karlovy Vary Festival --- New Czech Film.) Running time: 119 MIN.

Cast

Beata ..... Anna Geislerova Oscar ..... Ondrej Pavelka Karel Kral ..... Milan Lasica Andela ..... Vilma Cibulkova Agata ..... Kristyna Novakova Misa ..... Klara Senkirova
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