Film

“Always at the Carlyle” Is a Glossy Hotel Ad Masquerading as a Documentary

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There are two sorts of on-camera interviews in the obnoxiously superficial hotel commercial/documentary Always at the Carlyle, a tone-deaf celebration of Manhattan’s ritzy Carlyle Hotel. The first catalog the notable guests whose patronage, we’re told, exemplifies the Carlyle’s upscale character. This gossipy approach reveals little, as writer-director–off-camera interviewer Matthew Miele usually reduces his talking head experts to pseudo-pithy sound bites about how the Carlyle epitomizes a bygone era of classiness: Fran Lebowitz vaguely laments that “the lost treasures of New York” have mysteriously become shabbier over time since there are now “a billion people from Kansas ahead of you in line [at the Metropolitan Museum of Art].” Several interviewees also gloat about rubbing shoulders with celebrities, like when Piers Morgan raves about bumping into the British royal family at the Carlyle: “New Yorkers pretend to be very sanguine about the royals until they’re actually near them.”

The second type of conversation here skimpily highlights some of the unsung hotel employees and guests who, in the words of the late Eartha Kitt, make guests feel like they’re staying with “family.” But Miele often needlessly makes the little people look petty and self-absorbed, like when former longtime residents Marilise Huyot Flusser and Suzanne Huyot Matthau cattily suggest that Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans spent eighteen months hand-painting murals on the bar’s walls just so he could prolong his free stay at the hotel. “[He] moved to New Jersey,” Suzanne cackles before Miele abruptly cuts away.

Always at the Carlyle
Directed by Matthew Miele
Opens May 11, Quad Cinema

 

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