Greetings again from the darkness. Italian movie star Margherita Buy plays Irene, a luxury hotel inspector who travels the world testing picture frames for dust, bed covers for wrinkles, and hotel staff for smiles. Directed and co-written by Maria Sole Tognazzi, the film left me baffled as to why such a talented filmmaker presented such a dead-end trip for the viewer.
Within the first five minutes, we fully “get” Irene and we understand exactly where the movie is headed, provided it follows all overused story clichés (it does). See, Irene has things backwards. She lives in 5 star hotels and takes her brief respites with her nieces, her ex, and her sister. Most of us live with our families and vacation at resorts.
The world class hotels are breathtaking to see, but mostly the movie drags while we wait for Irene’s comeuppance. One segment of the story provides a spark of hope. Lesley Manville (recognizable from numerous Mike Leigh films) appears as a feminist author who lives life to the fullest and preaches realities that strike a chord with Irene. Unfortunately, this plot line is short-lived and the most interesting character disappears as quickly as she arrived.
Irene is single, but maintains a very close relationship with her ex (a very good Stefano Accorsi). Irene has no kids, but periodically spends time with her young nieces. Irene has no close friends, but spends time with her family-centric sister (a very interesting Fabrizia Sacchi). She does all of this without actually committing to living a real life, as she quickly escapes on her next mystery guest mission.
The film begs for comparison to the superior Up in the Air, which allowed for secondary character development … an element only teased in this film. Ms. Buy is very talented, but the script just makes this seem like a luke warm room service meal. We already know that there is no comparison in a dream job versus a dream life.
**NOTE: The Italian title is “Viaggio solo”, which translates to I Travel Alone. There is no good reason for changing the title for its United States release … probably decided by a marketing committee.
watch the trailer: