Thursday, July 17, 2014

“A Five Star Life”– Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw “A Five Star Life”, a comedy-drama from Italy.


When a single career woman finds her limited support system may be dissolving, she begins to question her life choices – but will this cause her to make drastic personal and professional changes?


By all accounts, Irene’s successful career as travel writer has certainly been a glamorous one. After all, who wouldn’t want to fly to the great cities of the world, stay at the best hotels and get paid for the privilege? But all may not be as well as it seems; in order to enjoy this lifestyle, Irene has been required to make some difficult personal choices, including foregoing having her own family. Now in her forties, she is among the best in her field professionally, but some would insist it’s taken its toll on her private life – in fact, by Irene’s own admission, she has no life. Although no longer a couple, she continues to see (and occasionally sleep with) Andrea during the rare occasions when she isn’t traveling. Aside from that, her sister Silvia is the closest thing she has to family; married to a fellow musician, Silvia is raising two daughters, to whom Irene struggles to remain close.

When Andrea starts dating a woman, the relationship doesn’t turn serious until he learns she’s pregnant and he’s the father. Feeling a sense of duty, Andrea decides to care for the woman during her pregnancy, although she maintains it’s unnecessary because she simply wanted a child and has no expectations of him. Irene has strongly mixed feelings about this because although Andrea appears excited about being a father, she fears his involvement with this woman and their child will put a distance between them which will only increase over time. Additionally, Silvia is panicking over fears her marriage may be falling apart. Without her husband, can she count on Irene the jet-setter to help her to take care of her daughters?

During one of her assignments evaluating a five-star hotel, Irene meets anthropologist Kate Sherman, an older woman currently touring to promote her new book on human sexuality in various cultures. Despite her age, Kate is a lusty, vivacious woman who inspires Irene to more enthusiastically embrace her own life without regrets. Although the two women develop an immediate affinity, their kinship abruptly ends unexpectedly. Realizing that she now suddenly finds herself alone again, Irene is confronted by the reality of her own situation. When Irene starts questioning the decisions she’s made, will this be an end to her career as a travel writer?


The Japanese culture is obsessed with the pursuit of perfection in spite of the fact that they acknowledge it is unattainable. While that belief may be substantially based in truth, there are few things in life that do actually come close to perfection – and as far as movies are concerned, “A Five Star Life” could easily be considered one of them. While it might be easily dismissed as a distaff version of “Up In The Air”, doing so would be a huge mistake.  Itself a five-star triumph that won many awards in Italy, the film succeeds in its realistic portrayal of a career woman’s professional and personal life in a non-judgmental – but frequently humorous – manner. This is no small way is due to the fabulous acting by Margherita Buy in the role of Irene; her protagonist is sympathetic but not pitiable and funny without being condescending.

It all starts with the screenplay and the one for “A Five Star Life” is a winner. The tale takes some unexpected twists and turns, resulting in a deeply satisfying (and reasonable) conclusion. Mostly, it is the unpredictability of the various plot points that keeps you drawn in, anticipating what’s coming next – and likely being wrong in your guess, but that turns out to be part of the fun. Largely episodic in its nature, this is a movie without a clear adversary to root against, yet does contain conflict, keeping the viewer engaged in the heroine’s outcome. While obviously a film meant for a female audience, men won’t be turned off because the male characters aren’t depicted as villains or buffoons.

Some technical notes about “A Five Star Life”: an Italian movie, it contains subtitles, but they are easily read (despite being white rather than an easier color to read). However, there are chunks of the film where English is spoken. The literal translation of its original Italian title is, “I Travel Alone”, which is a terrible name for this kind of motion picture (it sounds almost like a 1950’s film noir crime drama); my understanding is that in the United States, it is being marketed under the name “A Five Star Life”, which I suppose is nominally better – but if you do look for this picture and can’t find it under one title, try looking for it as the other title. This is one worth the effort.


A Five Star Life (2013) on IMDb


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