First Class

A Five Star Life contemplates the value of luxury

First Class
Margherita Buy takes the lead in A Five Star Life.

Irene (Margherita Buy) would seem to have the dream job as a secret inspector of five-star hotels. She lives not the good life but the very good life, going around to gorgeous hotels that are set against stunning vistas. Staying in the very best rooms, by profession she also has to wine and dine in the hotels' spectacular restaurants while enjoying the finest services they have to offer. Holding a somewhat ordinary white-collar job, she lives the most magnificent life.

But how much of it rings true, and what is hollow? She has all the affectations of the well-lived life with little of the content or meaning. Independent and living alone, the 40-ish Irene either has it all (the free life and perfect job) or has nothing (lacking spouse and family).

This gentle, contemplative work moves elegantly and slowly, offering no melodramatic explanations as it looks at her life and her limited relationships. There is no artificial denouement nor forced rupture: The narrative swirls in this journey are all mimetic and organic.

Many will find this film an absolute pleasure; it so deliciously shows Irene's life in (and out of) hotels. It offers a fine detailing of the lifestyles of the rich and pampered, strained through an almost bureaucratic judgment of how well presented and executed is this excessive leisure. Buy is a charismatic screen presence whom we enjoy watching as she goes through her daily journey, be it business or her personal life.

The slow-moving narrative takes forever to gain momentum, and when it finally does, it deliberately undercuts it. This either is the most contemplative and sensual kind of pleasure or a well-meaning, finely executed misfire that ultimately drags instead of soars. I lean toward the latter take, but not with the vehemence required to urge viewers who think they might find the film pleasurable from experiencing it.♦