The Italian comedy/drama A Five Star Life, which centers on a 40-something woman navigating romantic and family relationships, opens in Atlanta on Sept. 5. Here are five things you should know about the film:
1) It’s the fifth Italian movie to open in the United States this year …
… but the first one to do so in Atlanta. Yep, Italian cinema has been riding high on the momentum of the Oscar-winning Italian film The Great Beauty, but Atlanta residents haven’t been able to reap the benefits. Since The Great Beauty wrapped its successful Atlanta theatrical run back in March, Valeria Golino’s Honey, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty and Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Salvo have opened on the East Coast. But sadly, none made it to Atlanta. Thankfully, Maria Sole Tognazzi’s A Five Star Life breaks that streak.
2) It centers on an unusual occupation.
Irene (Margherita Buy), the film’s protagonist, works as a “professional mystery guest.” A typical workday involves checking in to a five-star hotel under the guise of being a regular patron, ranking the ritzy establishment on everything from the treatment of guests to the temperature of the room service soup, and then meeting with the hotel manager after a few days to deliver the report. Not a shabby gig.
For viewers, Irene’s occupation also provides an opportunity to live vicariously through her as she visits these exotic accommodations. Tognazzi and cinematographer Arnaldo Catinari (The Caiman) prove excellent guides, letting the camera linger on these lush hotels and reveal them in all their majesty.
3) It was nominated for five David di Donatello Awards.
A Five Star Life did well at Italy’s version of the Oscars last year, scoring David di Donatello Award nominations for Best Actress (Buy), Best Supporting Actress (Fabrizia Sacchi), Best Supporting Actor (Stefano Accordi), Best Screenplay (Tognazzi, Francesca Marciano and Ivan Cotroneo) and Best Editing. It won for Best Actress. Speaking of which …
4) Its star, actress Margherita Buy, is the Italian Meryl Streep.
Buy has been nominated for a mind-boggling 15 David di Donatello Awards and won six times. But she remains relatively unknown in the United States. Of her 15 nominated films, only Paolo Virzì’s Caterina in the Big City (2005 U.S. theatrical release, grossed $296K), Ferzan Ozpetek’s His Secret Life (2001, grossed $215K) and Silvio Soldini’s Days and Clouds (2008, grossed $112K) played U.S. theaters. A few others, such as Nanni Moretti’s The Caiman, Giovanni Veronesi’s Manuale d’amore and Ozpetek’s Saturn in Opposition, played the festival circuit.
A Five Star Life isn’t Buy’s best performance and isn’t likely to make her a household name (even in art-house circles). But it does provide a feel for her talent, with Buy sidestepping the script’s occasional shortcomings and delivering a nuanced, contemplative performance.
5) It’s a pretty good movie.
Cynics might question why A Five Star Life, a pleasant-but-unspectacular film, is nabbing an Atlanta theatrical release while superior fare like Honey, Me and You and 2012’s excellent Reality never graced the city’s big screens. But I prefer to look at A Five Star Life’s Atlanta theatrical release as a step in the right direction – one that hopefully bodes well for when Virzì’s award-winning Human Capital hits U.S. theaters in late 2014/early 2015.
Although A Five Star Life can be a little too formulaic and heavy-handed at times, it has enough going for it to merit a look. The plush atmosphere, romantic subplots and occasional laughs make for easy viewing, and Tognazzi shows an admirable tendency to steer the film away from simple resolution. (Read my full review of A Five Star Life.) Throw in the opportunity to see Buy in action, and A Five Star Life is an easy movie to recommend – even if it’s not quite five-star material.
“A Five Star Life” opens on Sept. 5 in Atlanta at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. For more on “A Five Star Life,” visit Music Box Films’ website. And for more Italian film news, reviews and analysis, visit VivaItalianMovies.com.