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  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I saw "All About My Mother" I couldn't get the leading actress out of my mind. She made such an impact on me with her very real and touching performance as the mother who couldn't get past her loss. It was meant to be that way, real, heart wrenching. In "A Five Star Life", Margherita Buy shines with her portrayal of the professional but lonely hotel inspector, Irene. She lives what others would consider a heavenly life, eating, relaxing, and sleeping in the best resorts in the world, and having an incredible amount of power, too.

    We accompany Irene as she shows us how it works. She travels to Berlin, Paris, Switzerland, and a few five star resorts. She watches the moves of the hotels' personnel, armed with cameras, voice recorders, timers, and her watchful eyes miss nothing. At times she appears full in control, but she also lets her personal side comes through, showing sympathy for others less fortunate, expressing a bit of jealousy while watching others have what she is missing.

    The film cuts in and out of her trips by showing what happens to her when she returns to her home, and there is much emptiness in her personal life. She has very good friends, but she yearns for more. She visits her sister and spends time with her nieces, enjoying every moment and knowing she has to let them go because they're not her own children. Still, she says she has no regrets and tries to continue.

    Something happens in Berlin that makes her realize she might be missing something, and it's hard to watch because it all hangs on the realization that time is valuable and life is precious. Irene is now confronted with making decisions, and by the time we reach the end of the film, we still don't know what she has chosen. It is an open ending, yet there is hope because it shows the possibilities, and the camera shows she might have moved beyond the five star enclosures.

    What is so beautiful about the film is that it is very honest and shows the simple emotions in everyone's daily life: daughters miss their mothers, people make mistakes, and there are insecurities all over the place. In fact, she might really not travel alone because her life follows her, and no one can leave everything behind. Life is what you make of it, and prisons come in many shapes.

    Overall, the movie works because of this actress' superb performance. She expresses every single emotion that is required of her. She is happy and frustrated with her family and work. She longs for love and it's sad to see that is difficult. She glows when there is the possibility of love and friendship, and it's shattering to see the low points of her life. Buy is an amazing actress.
  • Irene is in her 40's, single, and has a job that sounds like a luxury: reviewing 5 star hotels in gorgeous locations. But mind you, her job isn't just basking in all the amenities that a hotel provides, her job requires a meticulous attention to every possible detail, and all kinds of factors, from the amount of dust on the lamps to the timeliness of the staff, is thoroughly considered. Since her job requires her to be away from home so much, she is single and has estranged relationships with her family and friends. If the premise reminds you of Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, you're on the right track.

    The premise of the film allows us as an audience to venture to some magnificent locations, and it's immediately recognizable how well the film utilizes every location it visits. Paris, Berlin, The Alps, Marrakesh, and a few hotels in Italy all get the deluxe treatment and are showcased beautifully here. But where it would be easy to venture into imagery reminiscent of the travel channel, this film instead focuses on the sense of isolation that each hotel brings. Sure, the views are all exquisite, but the film wonderfully captures the hollow reality that these deluxe locations encapsulate. Thematically, the film encapsulates this sense of isolated beauty that Irene embodies. As fun as it is to gasp at the luxury, the purpose is not to envy Irene by the end of the film but to simply understand the world that she inhabits.

    Despite being a movie about luxury, the biggest strength of the film ends up being its simplicity. There is no grand revelation or massive plot twist here, but we do feel the many themes that are shared with us. One of these is the concept of artificial comfort. Is having someone wait on you nonstop really a key to happiness? How arbitrary is our modern day measurement of luxury and quality? While the themes are played out visually in the various locations, we see them play out emotionally in Irene's interactions when she is back at home. Her best friend and former lover is about to be a father because the mother believes it will make her happy, a tangible showing of how happiness has become a material good. Her relationship with her sister, brother-in-law and nieces fluctuates but is her only hope for having family in her life. From the concept, it would appear that the heart of the film comes from her travels, but the film very uniquely also covers the many times that she comes home and the impact she has on those who don't share her lifestyle.

    A Five Star Life is a short, simple film but is fully engaging because of how well its themes are realized, both visually and emotionally. It may not have the same level of prowess that Up in the Air has, but for a smaller film, it certainly engages for the entire runtime.
  • This is an intelligent and well-crafted film with fine acting, a sharp script, at times humorous with some surprises along the way, and ably directed by Maria Sole Tognazzi. I thought the characters were well developed and believable, as well as the movie being beautifully shot via its cinematography.

    Margherita Buy is superb as Irene Lorenzi, employed by a publication as a mystery guest, where she travels the globe examining luxury hotels to see if their standards are up to a 5-star rating. She's very thorough and conscientious in her job, but begins to realize that years are passing, and that she remains quite lonely.

    Irene is unmarried and has no children, and except for her best friend Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), with whom she had a relationship with some 15 years before, her sister Silvia (Fabrizia Sacchi), brother-in-law Tomasso (Gianmarco Tognazzi) and her two nieces, she has no intimacy with anyone else.

    When a shocking event occurs at one of her hotel stays, she must really focus on re-evaluating her priorities and her life.

    To me, this was an exceptional and enjoyable movie geared to adults, filled with fine performances, intelligence, humor, and surprises.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Viaggio Sola", known on Netflix as "A Five-Star Life", is a window into the evolution of global feminism. This European production exposes the isolated work life of a single middle-aged woman in a world where femininity is still defined by heterosexual mating and child-bearing. It also exposes the lifestyle of the global 1% who stay in 5-tar hotels. I found it interesting that it was sponsored by a luxury hotel chain.

    Zooming out from the details of the film gives a clear view of the have-vs-have-nots world we in corporately controlled nations occupy. The relatively bourgeois main character is sandwiched uncomfortably between the haves and the have-lesses. She is sandwiched between those living conventional lives and those living above the fray. Her compatriots, those who actually work in the luxury hotels, are also her enemies and servants, since she is a spy, posing as a guest.

    I recommend it. I have noticed it has garnered mediocre critical reviews. I have to wonder if this relates to its challenge to conformist materialistic ideals in conformist materialistic times. I also speculate that American viewers cannot relate to its European worldliness.
  • A Five Star Life's original Italian title is Viaggio Sola, which loosely translates to "Traveling Alone". That may have been the better English title for A Five Star Life, not only because the heroine travels for 80% of the film but because it would better serve the emotion the film is trying to convey, as some of that emotion seemed to be lost in translation.

    Irene (Marguerita Buy) is a beautiful woman in her 40s who is a five star hotel secret guest. So she has the best job in the world as she checks into the fanciest hotels all over Europe and meticulously grades everything she sees and experiences. It's a glamorous yet solitary life, and Irene lives it never bothered by the lack of personal relationships one would usually have at her age. Those closest to her include her ex- fiancé Andrea and her sister Silvia, a busy mother of two young girls. When Andrea (Stefano Accorsi) learns he is going to be a father from a one night stand, Irene starts to reevaluate her lonely luxurious life. Irene's sister Silvia is a busy musician, wife and mother of two. She is presented to us as the antithesis of Irene, almost what women are supposed to become if they choose the "normal" path of husband and kids. The scenes between Silvia and Irene are the most interesting in the film. Their conversations display a jealousy from both sides yet each hold a candle of superiority over the other, showing that no path is the true path to happiness.

    Director Maria Sole Tognazzi paints a beautiful and stark painting of Irene's life on the go. Much like George Clooney in Up in The Air, Irene lives out of her suitcase in the most beautiful rooms in the most stunning places in the world. Back home in Italy you are shown the complete opposite- Irene's empty apartment is a physical representation of her personal life. The camera work in the many places Irene visits is spectacular. From a belly dancer in Morocco to a gorgeous mountain range in Sweden, Tognazzi has an eye for atmosphere and it serves her well in this film. The camera also loves Marguerita Buy. She has the presence of a younger actress with her elegant but casual wardrobe and her perfectly tousled curly blonde hair. Yet she wears her age in such a classic and natural way- you would not want her any other way.

    The idea in A Five Star Life is that Irene is lonely and she is doubting her life choice to be single and childless. There is no great urgency from her, especially when she's having a leisurely cocktail in Paris, Stockholm, or Berlin. These places take her away from what is really bothering her. She is most lonely and desperate when she's surrounded by her loved ones. They represent what she has left behind and what she can not get back. More scenes with them would have served the narrative better and given the audience more of an emotional tie to her plight. A Five Star Life is a light and delightful travel movie, but for the emotional moral to really hit home it could have used a little less travel.

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  • Warning: Spoilers
    The movie was excellent. Deeper than I had expected, philosophical and sociological. It might well be a good manifesto for feminism, which is the aspect I enjoyed the most.

    There were scenes that felt almost like a documentary to me, as I was taken by learning what a hotel inspector does and how.

    I also loved the questions she would then start asking herself (out loud for the audience) about the meaning of her life in the same way she had conducted inspections in the 5 star hotels.

    The conversation between a wife and her husband not feeling attraction anymore to make love after many years of marriage was very realistic. There, it was clear be a woman writing/directing the movie.

    Not a masterpiece but well done Maria Sole T.
  • This simple story explain very well that we have one life to live as we choose, although sometimes we might doubt about our decision and we should be ready to revise them, as age advances.

    This is our journey and we should not be influenced by conventions to choose a "normal" life. Besides, as shown in the film, there is nothing great in living the "normal" life, especially if you feel you are not cut out for it.

    Irene chose to inspect luxury hotels for a living and travels most of the time. She could have a stable relationship, proved by the fact that she is very friendly with her ex and meets him regularly, but for the sake of the narrative, we must assume she cannot have it.

    Her sister Silvia leads the "normal" life, married with a couple of kids. However, she does not seem ecstatically happy. In fact, she has all the "normal" problems of middle aged people: a boring marriage; growing kids; loosing her attractiveness, etc...

    Irene suffers a panic attack following a fleeting connection with another guest at a luxury hotel. The false sense of security a luxury hotel may give is briefly debated, but my personal opinion is that it is still better to sleep in a 5 star hotel than under a bridge - so I am not a fan of the social commentary, but it is a sideline.

    This is for me a simple tale about the meaning of life. One should understand that your life has the meaning you give to it and that there is no right or wrong. Good movie, anyway...
  • ferguson-615 September 2014
    Greetings again from the darkness. Italian movie star Margherita Buy plays Irene, a luxury hotel inspector who travels the world testing picture frames for dust, bed covers for wrinkles, and hotel staff for smiles. Directed and co-written by Maria Sole Tognazzi, the film left me baffled as to why such a talented filmmaker presented such a dead-end trip for the viewer.

    Within the first five minutes, we fully "get" Irene and we understand exactly where the movie is headed, provided it follows all overused story clichés (it does). See, Irene has things backwards. She lives in 5 star hotels and takes her brief respites with her nieces, her ex, and her sister. Most of us live with our families and vacation at resorts.

    The luxury hotels are breathtaking to see, but mostly the movie drags while we wait for Irene's comeuppance. One segment of the story provides a spark of hope. Lesley Manville (recognizable from numerous Mike Leigh films) appears as a feminist author who lives life to the fullest and tosses out realities that strike a chord with Irene. Unfortunately, this plot line is short-lived and the most interesting character disappears as quickly as she arrived.

    Irene is single, but maintains a very close relationship with her ex (a very good Stefano Accorsi). Irene has no kids, but periodically spends time with her young nieces. Irene has no close friends, but spends time with her family-centric sister (a very interesting Fabrizia Sacchi). She does all of this without actually committing to living a real life, as she quickly escapes on her next mystery guest mission.

    The film begs for comparison to the superior Up in the Air, which allowed for secondary character development ... an element only teased in this film. Ms. Buy is very talented, but the script just makes this seem like a Luke warm room service meal. We already know that there is no comparison in a dream job versus a dream life.
  • jnrb713 September 2018
    Yes there is some beautiful scenery and the movie gives you some insight into the life of Italian people and then what? Seriously there is more of a story on a box of cereal. She travels a lot and realises that her dream job has some negatives as well. Big deal. Everything in life has a price - we all know that. However, would we make a film about it?