Is her five-star life enough?
For a single woman who loves to travel, the job is a dream: Check into a luxe hostelry in the Alps, or on the Mediterranean, or in the posh precincts of an Old World burg, sample the cuisine, the amenities, then file your report for the rating service that employs you. Hotel critic - not a bad way to make a living.
That's exactly the living Irene (Margherita Buy) makes in A Five Star Life, a frothy romantic comedy tinged with melancholy and yearning.
With a cool, pensive air and a pile of Meg Ryan hair, Irene, somewhere in her middle 40s, dutifully trots the globe (other stops: Morocco, India, China), donning white gloves to check for dust, and flipping open her laptop to score bellhop behavior, concierge skills, waitstaff civility, the thread counts of the bedsheets. Her inspections are incognito. The staffs believe she is just another well-to-do guest.
But when she's back in her apartment in Rome, she begins to wonder: Is that all there is? Or is all that - her freedom, her independence - enough?
It's not like she's completely alone. Irene's ex-lover, Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), remains a close friend, although she worries that the complications of a new relationship are going to take him out of the picture. Irene's sister, Silvia (Fabrizia Sacchi), is a scatterbrained sweetheart constantly coming and going, often with her two daughters in tow. Irene is (mostly) happy to see them.
On a hotel assignment in Berlin, Irene meets a British anthropologist (Lesley Manville) with a feminist bent and strong opinions about what matters in life. Their encounter sends little tremors through Irene's being.
Like its protagonist, A Five Star Life (original title: Viaggio Sola) surveys its ritzy establishments with an exacting eye. The movie offers a travelogue of tasteful extravagance (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous without the hoo-ha), but that's not what it's really about. Filmmaker Maria Sole Tognazzi is going for a quiet, thoughtful character study: a modern woman, sure of herself, but still trying to come to terms with her place in the world.
A Five Star Life *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Maria Sole Tognazzi. With Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Fabrizia Sacchi, Lesley Manville. In Italian with subtitles. Distributed by Music Box Films.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (sex, profanity, adult themes).
Playing at: Ritz Bourse.