Home Video Hovel: A Five-Star Life, by Sarah Brinks
There are a lot of things that come to mind when we think of luxury. You think of fine meals, beautiful hotels, and exotic locations. What you probably don’t think of is isolation and loneliness. For the main character in A Five Star Life, Irene (Margherita Buy), she experiences both. Irene’s job is to travel the world and stay at five star hotels. She’s a mystery guest who judges the hotel and writes reviews. We see her various techniques for judging the hotels and how some of them succeed and some fail. Irene’s job, while glamorous and enviable, is also lonely and isolating.
Her life of jet setting around the world, ordering room service and spa treatments, is juxtaposed with her sister’s life. Where Irene is efficient and organized her sister Silvia is scatter-brained and chaotic. Silvia is also a dedicated mother to her two daughters and a good wife. Silvia is a bit judgmental of Irene for being middle-aged and unmarried. It likely comes from a place of jealousy over her sister’s freedom and enviable job, but she is also happier in a lot ways. The other element of contrast in the film is Irene’s best – and only – friend, Andrea. Andrea runs an organic grocery exchange and, at the start of film, meets a woman and accidentally gets her pregnant. At first he doesn’t want it, but then he changes his mind and begins to really look forward to being dad. Irene is happy for him but is also jealous of his chance to be a parent.
The film is structured a bit like a travel log. Irene narrates portions of the film as though she is reading one of her reviews. It is a nice way to add structure to the film. It also adds depth to some the scenes it accompanies. The narration made me think about things that I don’t really consider when I stay at hotels. For example, I never thought about how long I stand at the front desk or if the concierge shows me how to work the safe. Her hotel stays are cut between scenes when she is home in Italy. She hangs out with Andrea and her sister’s family, but always goes home alone.
One of the more interesting elements of the film are the other guests she encounters at the various hotels she stays at. She meets a sweet couple in a hotel who are on their honeymoon and have never stayed at a five star hotel before. They are treated poorly by the hotel staff and Irene calls the hotel manager out on it. She also meets a charming Frenchman in Marrakesh; they have a spark between them, but he is married and faithful. In Berlin, she meets an English woman in the spa named Kate Sherman. They hit it off and become fast friends. Kate is an anthropologist, an expert in gender roles and feminism. She goes on TV and discusses these topics as Irene watches the show in her hotel room. Sadly, Kate dies that night of a heart attack and it puts Irene’s life in perspective. She takes consolation in her relationship with Andrea. She admits she is scared that once the baby comes he’ll forget about her. They sleep together but both realize their friendship is better as a friendship only.
A Five Star Life is a bit like “travel porn.” Irene stays in stunning hotels. She also travels around beautiful cities. Every place is shot to look like heaven. You see how the elite traveler lives and the extremes those establishments go to for their comfort. For example, the hotel in Berlin Irene has a private butler who unpacks her suitcase for her. It is a look at a life style that most of us only see in movies or television. A Five Star Life had the same effect movies like this always have on me, where I immediately want to grab my passport and book an extravagant trip.
A Five Star Life is a good and entertaining film with lots of beautiful places on screen. It isn’t very challenging, or thought-provoking, but it is well made, well acted, and the story hold your attention for the ninety minute run time. If you like to see beautiful hotels and cities this movie is for you.