Pop open your newsfeed, and articles with names like "What's the Rush? 14 Reasons You Shouldn't Marry Young" and "Ten Darn Good Reasons to Get Married and Have Kids Young" are probably clogging it up. Maria Sole Tognazzi's latest cinematic venture adds to that conversation by posing the question, "What is luxury?"
A Five Star Life stars a Meg Ryan-esque character named Irene who travels the world as an undercover five-star hotel inspector. Irene is beautiful, middle aged, and extremely independent. But, of course, in true romantic comedy fashion, this Italian flick features a few minor characters who are there to help the protagonist find more meaning in life and answer a dramatic question.
Irene's sister Silvia is married with two children and believes her always-traveling single (and, in her mind, soon-to-be spinster) sister cannot possibly be happy unless she too settles down with a mate and begins procreating. Andrea is Irene's ex-lover turned best friend who finds himself in a sticky situation with another woman, which makes Irene feel as though she's losing him.
Irene suddenly gains full responsibility at her job and travels even more. And she begins to feel pressure from her sister, who says she's being selfish. In Silvia's eyes, if Irene continues in her current lifestyle, the only possible end is loneliness. Can Irene truly be happy if she doesn't settle down and continues following her career path?
Irene's entire life revolves around judging hotels based on their level of luxury. She narrates the film by asking questions: Is the bathroom clean enough? Did the concierge maintain proper eye contact? Did the bus boy offer to unpack the luggage?
The hotels she assesses become symbols of her life: Irene does not have a home, and instead of creating one for herself, she judges the ones she enters. She is hard on her sister and becomes short with Andrea as he moves on with his life. Rather than evaluate her own life and her own level of "luxury" and "comfort," she judges everyone else's.
Is Irene really freer than they are because she has the freedom to travel? Or are Silvia and Andrea actually the ones with more liberty, because they are surrounded by people who love them and will take care of them?
As Irene contemplates whether or not she is truly free or just lonely, she meets a woman who has her own answer to these big questions. Much like Irene, Kate is an older career-driven single woman travelling the world. Kate points to the beautiful hotel around them and says the extravagance surrounding them is a faux-luxury.
"Luxury is the pleasure of a real life lived to the full and full of imperfections," she says.
From that statement, one would think director Maria Sole Tognazzi would side with those who err on the let's-wait-til-we-have-successful-careers-and-have-bungee-jumped-off-the-highest-point-to-think-about-settling-down side. Irene should look down upon her friends and family for settling down.