Czech comedy about the everyday adventures of a motley assortment of vacationers who pile onto a bus headed to the sea is marked by an uncharacteristic lightness of being: Tyro helmer Jiri Vejdelek treats his characters with gently satirical affection rather than the dark edge one expects from Eastern European humor. Tribeca awarded a Special Mention to the personable ensemble cast, as well as the actress gong to veteran thesp Eva Holubova for what is essentially a supporting role. A hit at home, this holiday may prove too insubstantial for arthouse auds.
Two bus drivers, both named Karel, are obsessed with cupholders, while the shapely blonde tour guide relentlessly shares her upbeat perkiness in song. An overtly gay couple, the older partner fearing that his boyfriend may soon jump ship, is balanced by homophobic parents who fear their children will be contaminated. The fragile friendship between two catty teenage girls barely survives their lust for the same lifeguard. And a scuba-diver's hobby turns out to hide an addiction to underwater voyeurism.
Deeper emotions are reserved for an older woman (Kveta Fialova), trying to retrace the itinerary she took with her lover a half century earlier.
The film's focal center is Jolana (Anna Polivkova), a wryly intelligent woman with plain looks whose mordant good humor draws the friendship -- but not the sexual interest -- of the group's one eligible, sexy bachelor (Ondrej Koval), a one-hit songwriter of fading fame. Taking her romantic future in her own hands, Jolana pragmatically settles for what she can get.
Helmer Vejdelek, co-writing with Michael Viewegh adapting his bestseller, bundles everything up neatly and sweetly, with almost everybody going home a little wiser and more tolerant. Only in Jolana's story does one get the sense of what is otherwise missing in the "happily ever after" ending, Polivkova infusing her character with pathos and quietly ironic acceptance.
Tech credits are pro, providing a flexible frame for the ever-intertwining ensemble cast.
Camera (color, widescreen), Jakub Simunek; editor, Jan Danhel; music, Oskar Petr; production designer, Henrich Boraros; sound (Dolby Digital), Tomas Kubec. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (competing), May 3, 2006. Running time: 117 MIN.