Running Time: 85 mins.                     Rating: x Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi

Genre: Drama

Country: Italy

Language: English, Italian & French w/English subtitles

Distributor: Music Box Films

Cast: Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Gianmarco Tognazzi, Alessia Barela, Lesley Manville, Henry Arnold, Bruno Wolkowitch, Fabrizia Sacchi



A typical five-star hotel in the more expensive areas of Europe, Morocco and China would cost, figure, oh, $700 a night and up. And that doesn’t include the enormous tip that would be expected for your butler, assigned to you only, waiting in the hall at your beck and call with room service treats that, of course, would be charged to your bill.  Imagine having a job that would take you from one such hotel to another, from one romantic country to the others, with all airfare and taxis paid for and with the power to determine the fate of each establishment to some extent.  Would you like that?  Probably, and Irene (Margherita Buy), the principal character in Maria Sole Tognazzi’s dramatic comedy A FIVE STAR LIFE (I TRAVEL ALONE in its Italian title), is not exactly miserable.  But believe it or not, she feels that she is missing something, and that something is family, a person or group of persons that she could love and who love her back and who provide for this otherwise independent person an anchor of stability.  Poor Irene.  But she can also laugh at herself for her longing, which is why Tognazzi’s wholly delightful tale is light enough to be called comedy with sufficient weight to be named a drama as well.

Top off the terrific, subtle screenplay of Ivan Cotroneo and Francesca Marciano with one of the best lead performances you’ll see this year, and you have a five-star movie!  It’s not for nothing that Margherita Buy won the Italian equivalent of the Oscar.  She is Italy’s answer to France’s Catherine Deneuve and, in her forties, more desirable, perhaps, than ever before.

Director Tognazzi, whose PAST PERFECT, or Passato Prossimo, dealt with five friends with relationship problems who meet outside of Rome on a snowy night, continues to deal with unusual relationship problems by focusing on Irene (Margherita Buy), whose to-die-for job leaves her lonely for someone she can call her own.  She is no celibate, having enjoyed years with her lover Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), who in turn is awaiting the birth of a baby from his current girlfriend Fabiana (Alessia Barela).  Her principal people-time at home is with her sister, Silvia (Fabrizia Sacchi) and her two lively nieces whom she occasionally takes out for the day.  But if Irene were familiar with her sister’s marriage—a husband (Gianmarco Tognazzi) who has pretty-much given up sex—she might not be considering matrimony as the solution to her intimacy needs.

Occasionally she’ll meet a guy in one of the posh hotels—whether in Paris, Gstaad, Marrakesh, Tuscany, Berlin, Apulia or Shanghai—but one-night stands are not her thing.  Her life is due for a change when in a Turkish bath she runs into a feminist anthropologist, Kate Sherman (Lesley Manville), who is scheduled to give a televised speech about her views on pornography, but by the conclusion of the sprightly movie, we are not sure whether she will chuck her job and look for something less impersonal.

Aside from the stunning Ms. Buy’s convincing role, director Tognazzi and her entire crew of actors and back-up people treat themselves to some traveling around Europe and Morocco, filming enough of each location to get a feel of its principal attractions.  We see the mountains surrounding Gstaad, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the brilliance of a lit-up Shanghai night, the Place de la Concorde in Paris.  Within hotels we witness the intrusiveness of the butlers, the desire of staffs to please the well-heeled guests, the blow that befalls one resort when Irene follows one naïve couple around noting that the employees all ignore them, a twosome that do not belong in such luxury and who probably won the trip in a contest.  The film’s narrator goes through the checklists—Do the employees make eye contact? Do you feel comfortable?  Are there stains on the sheets or dust on the mirror-tops?

All in all, A FIVE STAR LIFE blends comedy and drama in an exquisitely acted roundelay of continental tourism.


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