Documentaries are made for varying reasons. They could be for education, to inform the world of some little known subject, to celebrate a famous person, to whistle blow or to honour a person in a biography. ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE, the new documentary written and directed by Matthew Miele celebrates a famous hotel – the famous hotel called the Carlyle.
The iconic Carlyle hotel has been an international destination for a particular jet-set as well as a favourite haunt of the most discernible New Yorkers. This documentary celebrates glamour – the glamour of the hotel (the cost of a suite could go for as high as $22,000) and the glamour of the guests that have stayed there. The list of guests includes stars Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Anthony Bourdain, Naomi Campbell, George Clooney, Sofia Coppola, Alan Cumming and Jon Hamm as well as Presidents and dignitaries like John F. Kennedy and Ted Roosevelt.
The Carlyle Hotel enjoys the reputation popularized by recent movies like the JOHN WICK films and HOTEL ARTEMIS with Jodie Foster. In these films, a hotel would service any client no matter what background with everyone treated fairly and equally despite any shadiness. At the Carlyle, the management declined to tap the rooms of any suspicious clientele as all hotel guests are treated with respect. The example given is the request by the government agency to tap the Iraqi delegation that stayed there during the Gulf War. No was the answer.
Whatever happens at the Carlyle stays at the Carlyle. That is the saying and understand of both the staff and guests of the plush expensive hotel. Even the names of the celebrities are not disclosed by the staff.
Director Mile has assembled a varied cast of interviewees to shed light on the hotel. Besides the stars mentioned, the hotel staff, many of whom have spent their entire lives working there. These include Kim of Room Service, Ernesto the doorman, Helal the waiter and several of management from sales to decor designer.
The film reveals the uniqueness of the Carlyle, in the words of both sides, the clientele and staff. The art decor, the personal friendliness, the class, the care taken and style are a few of the factors. The staff also speak of their favourite encounters. George Clooney (who also speaks to the camera in an interview) and John F. Kennedy top the list of the staff’s favourite guests.
What is a hotel without some wicked scandal? The hotel staff is asked about Marilyn Monroe and Kennedy and about many young and super gorgeous twenty-somethings that enter the hotel doors. Fortunately, the staff is discreet.
The film’s highlights are the performances that take place at the hotel’s cafe. A seat is reputed to cost at least $150 with a minimum of a $75 order. One of the most popular performers is Bobby Short who is shown performing in a brief clip. His performance and the hotel are also featured in Woody Allen’s film HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. Woody Allen is also featured playing the clarinet in the cafe.
ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE is entertaining fluff. The film celebrates celebrities.