“Always at the Carlyle” can’t rightly be called a documentary. It’s more of a love letter to one of Manhattan’s great hotels. Plump with celebrity interviews, glamorous people and the attentive—if somewhat secretive—staff who coddle the one percenters who stay there, it’s a glossy, uncritical look at a hotel whose rooms can cost as much as a car.
Director Matthew Miele lines up a who’s who of a-lister types to talk about the hotel’s special charms. George Clooney and the late great Anthony Bourdain wax poetic, while Harrison Ford grouses, good naturedly, about not ever being housed in the hotel’s $20,000 a night suite. Sophia Coppola describes what it was like to live there when she was a child and rich people you’ve never heard of describe the hotel’s upwardly mobile ambiance in hushed reverential terms.
Miele provides a peak at the colourful murals in Bemelmans Bar, painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, artist of the “Madeline” books, and tells of the legendary Bobby Short’s musical contributions to New York nightlife via his work at the equally legendary Carlyle Café.
It’s not very deep, but it is all very swanky, as crisp as the monogrammed pillowcases that adorn every bed. “Always at the Carlyle” works best when it recounts the hotel’s sophisticated history, told by former guests and employees with eye candy photos for illustration, but like the best hoteliers the doc chooses discretion over gossip. That’s good for the guests, but not good for the viewers of the film who might want something more. If only those walls could talk—they might tell a more interesting story.