Forty years after Closely Observed Trains, Jiri Menzel has adapted another of his fellow Czech Bohumil Hrabal's novels. An old man named Jan Dite (Oldrich Kaiser) recalls his youthful adventures as a waiter prior to the Second World War.
The young Jan (Ivan Barnev) is ambitious, propelling himself through the grand halls and hotels of 1930s Prague. Menzel choreographs Jan's story in the manner of a Chaplin, setting his protagonist up for a fall when he meets Hitler-worshipper Lise (Julia Jentsch). The film's compositional wit are clever without ever being that funny, and the psychological shallowness of the antihero becomes too distracting to be enjoyable.