Screened at the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (3.5/5); Imdb.com (7/10)
It’s been said that misery loves company – and, as this film illustrates, it apparently loves comedy, too. But, as writer-director Juraj Bohus’s debut feature also illustrates, misery is no laughing matter, either. This engaging comedy-drama follows the exploits of aspiring Slovak stand-up comedian Mišo Vrba (Ondrej Koval), who has more self-confidence than talent but nevertheless attempts to give his passion a shot before life gets away from him. However, Mišo’s underwhelming success prompts him to drown his sorrows in drinking and philandering, jeopardizing his relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Tania (Zuzana Norisová). But those escapes are called into question when he’s paid a surprise visit by his 20-year-old American niece, Julia (Cailin Witty), who’s clandestinely traveled to Bratislava to leave behind her disappointing life back home. She subsequently goes on tour with her uncle as his assistant, an opportunity for both of them to learn how to put aside their apprehensions and finally learn how to “stand up” for themselves. It thus becomes a story of rebirth and reassessment, taking time to figure out what’s truly important and what’s ultimately superfluous, inconsequential and expendable, told with solid writing, strong character development and an overall well-balanced treatment. This 2022 release is not to be confused with the many other pictures that bear the same title, including, most recently, the 2021 German release by the same name. This iteration of “Stand Up” may take a little effort to find, but this delightful offering is a pleasant little joy, one well worth a look.