Jude Law reveals his past. Hotel manager Gustave H played by Ralph Fiennes in a sort of First World War Austro-Hungarian world. He’s made love with elderly women and is suspected of murdering Madame D (Tilda Swinton) who has left a painting in her will to Gustave and this sets up a partnership with the lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori). Gustave is in jail and is pursued by villainous Willem Defoe. Other Hollywood stars e.g.Owen Wilson and Tom Wilkinson have walk on parts in this chase comedy which goes through many snowy landscapes and weird hotels.
Fiennes’ attempts at humour are reduced to tedious expressions of the “fuck” word as if we take his usual actorly fastidiousness at face value. He’s a socially climbing controller and chancer and I’m sure Fiennes models his role on the Pink Panther. I managed to laugh a few times. There are some embarrassingly stilted attempts at humour that you get in those 60’s caper movies especially Casino Royale (1967) and It’s a Mad Mad World. We’re supposed to be amused when a well known actor turns up to do his routine until the next star vies for our attention by putting the current star back in his box. Jerky actorly puppetry and idiosyncratic gurning are made to compensate for a decent story and sympathetic characters as we veer off on one smugly irrelevant tangent after another. Willem Dafoe is simply a cartoonish thug looking like he’d strayed out of the set of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. The hotel and other film scenes are like folding boxes in some stylized performance. The hotel itself is served up like a First World War cardboard theatre. The chase scenes are so derivative that I kept expecting the director to arrive on set and shout “cut”, but then again that’s what he effectively does. This is not so much a film as a scissors and cutting its way through any attempt at an amusing and coherent story. The scenes in the film are certainly vivid to the point where colours seem to drench the set. This is the Europe of Freud and Kafka but we wait in vain for any kind of wit or literary reference in ths failed nightmare. A would be jolly romp that flogs to death its one joke of Ralph Fiennes trying to keep up appearances.