Picture a stunning view from a hotel window — but this isn’t just any window. The curtains on it cost more than most people’s weekly paycheck, and it’s just another mere aesthetic added to the hotels visited in Maria Sole Tognazzi’s new film. “A Five Star Life” looks at the possibility of living with those blissful views and staying at all of the extravagant hotels in the world as a full-time job. Throughout, Tognazzi questions if freedom can belong to this type of ideal life. But even though she reaches beautiful destinations, this Italian picture lacks a story worth caring for.
Directed and co-written by Tognazzi, the movie centers around the travels of Irene (Margherita Buy), a middle-aged woman who goes all over the world to visit five-star hotels to inspect them. Her job demands all of her time, leaving no room for a family or even a romance other than the ones had with each extravagant city. She first considers her life as a free one, but that changes after meeting someone who attempts to define intimacy for her and in doing so alters her world.
“A Five Star Life” opens with Irene, inspecting all of the insignificant details of her hotel room. From checking for dust on furniture to testing the fluff in the pillows, Irene lives for her hotel inspections — regardless of how absurd it can seem. Jumping from location to location without limitations, she considers herself free from life burdens. Nonetheless, scenes with her coming home to frozen dinners in a practically empty apartment shows that even her lavish lifestyle doesn’t suffice as a happy one.
She finds affection through her sister Sylvia (Fabrizia Sacchi) and Sylvia’s family of a husband and two daughters. Though having an apparently strong but flawed family, Sylvia also questions her freedom in a stable home. Irene too finds companionship with her ex-boyfriend and longtime friend Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), who decides to commit to unforeseen responsibilities that change his life.
No matter which way their lives are looked at, all of the main characters’ lives contain some level of unhappiness that anyone can relate to, such as marital problems or fears of commitment. Tognazzi gears away from presenting these stories as examples of a better life over another. She reveals every person’s struggle to be happy in any sort of life.
The film’s end result draws in a focus on intimacy, but the journey it takes to get there is a long and weary one that causes the audience to feel bored, and even jet-lagged themselves, by the end of it. “A Five Star Life” attempts to be something more than just a romantic comedy, but with somewhat bland characters like Irene, the movie lacks in really saying anything at all. The climax introduces Kate (Lesley Manville), a free-spirited woman around the same age as Irene. Kate’s role ends far too briefly in the story — especially since her interactions with Irene create the most interesting aspects of the film.
The process of growth in Irene as a person comes too late in the film, and it all just seems to drag on throughout the first half. Kate refers to the luxury they know of through these hotels as “a form of deceit” and that “real luxury is the pleasure of real life lived to the fullest and full of imperfections.” If only this realization were worth the wait in the movie — because the long trips and little self-growth teeter down a monotonous path toward nowhere. “A Five Star Life” does little to captivate an audience with a meaningful story and ends with depthless characters who only tease us into believing otherwise of them.