Traveling around the world is anyone’s perfect dream job. But what if traveling around the world meant staying at the world’s most luxurious five-star hotels? While the idea of traveling around the world isn’t a viable option for many people, immersing oneself into a film about travel works just as well. But with Hollywood’s obsession with remakes and less original stories, finding a good travel film with interesting, engaging characters and a first-class story is hard to find. That was until I came across Italian filmmaker Maria Sole Tognazzi’s A Five Star Life (Viaggio sola) that sparked my travel wanderlust once again.
Directed and co-written by Tognazzi and starring Margherita Buy, Five Star Life tells the story of Irene Lorenzi (Buy), a luxury hotel critic (or “mystery guest”) who lives a jet-setting, independent life of traveling around the world to review luxury hotels from Paris to Marrakesh to Berlin. It’s a dream for Lorenzi but at the same time she begins to feel a want for personal fulfillment, even as an ex-fiance and follow-the-traditional-yet-outdated-road-of-marriage sister questions her commitment to life.
As a whole, A Five Star Life is one of those delightful travel films that is both elegant in storytelling and character development. The moment Lorenzi is introduced in the opening scene checking over a room at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, he or she feels the experience immediately – almost like Lorenzi’s invited guest on the trip. In a way, Lorenzi becomes not just a character on the screen but more as the ideal travel guide we all wish we knew. And that’s where the strength of Five Star Life comes from; Tognazzi’s brilliant yet subtle direction and weaving of a travel story that doesn’t feel over-the-top but has the right amount of elegant humor and charm. While not leading the viewer with Lorenzi on any explorations of the cities she visits, Tognazzi also gels the jet-setting and mundane drama together so well that any viewer could watch and feel their own personal life is relatable to Lorenzi’s. When one can instantly connect to a film’s central character it’s a sign the film is a masterpiece, which is exactly how I felt about this film. In fact, it’s now one of my personal favorites, with Tognazzi and Buy as my favorite director-actor duo. Highly recommended for travel enthusiasts and those who love a good story too!