A Five-Star Life (2013) / Drama
aka Viaggio sola (I Travel Alone)

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for sexual references and language
Running Time: 85 min.

Cast: Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Farizzia Sacchi, Lesley Manville
Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi
Screenplay: Ivan Cotroneo, Francesca Marciano, Maria Sole Tognazzi

Review published August 11, 2014

Margherita Buy (The Caiman, Days and Clouds) stars as Irene Lorenzi, a single, 40-something career woman who has the kind of job that most people could only dream of -- 90% of her days are spent in some of the world's finest hotels around the world, where her every need is catered for.  Her job is to go to each hotel and evaluate whether they should obtain or keep the vaunted 'five-star' status, based on her checklist of everything from whether she receives eye contact from the desk clerk down to the temperature of the soup she orders from room service.  While she expects impeccable service and surroundings, Irene begins to feel that, being away so much, that her own life is passing her by. 

The theme of the story is fairly obvious: while hotels try to make your stay as perfectly pleasant as possible, real life is actually quite messy, unpredictable, and full of pleasures and disappointments that aren't so evident when viewed from outside.  Just like the spinach that Irene's ex-boyfriend (and current friend-with-benefits) Andrea (Accorsi, The Last Kiss) sells, which contains the occasional snail, that's fine because it lets people know that they're getting something organic.  Perfection would require compromise of authenticity, which is something the hotels that Irene inhabits strive for.  Helpfulness and friendliness are just a mirage; one rarely sees the hotel staff as real people with real issues -- it's just not allowed.

A Five Star Life is slight drama that will no doubt be of appeal to older armchair tourists looking for a pleasant excursion with beautiful people at various luxurious hotels in locations around the world.  Buy's performance is solid, and the rest of the cast is quite likeable.  There's even a smattering of pithy moments thrown in, which makes it interesting as a reflective drama in which we can see through the lives of others the kinds of things that are missing in our own lives, or the things we have that we may be taking for granted, namely, a feeling of personal connection and intimacy with other people.

At 85 minutes, it doesn't exactly overstay its welcome, but those looking for more substance may still grow impatient with its frothy nature.  While it might seem airy and inconsequential, perhaps that's the point; Irene's living a life of opulence around her, but none of it really matters if there's no one around to share it with, except those paid to do so.  Nevertheless, director and co-writer Maria Sole Tognazzi (The Man Who Loves, Past Perfect) employs a light touch, which is refreshing in this day and age of preachy inspirational dramas, that subtly whispers to us that there's more to life than staying in one's comfort zone through an uncomplicated existence.  A Five-Star Life is a respectable three-star entertainment.

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo