"Always at the Carlyle" plays like a feature-length video you'd expect to see on a loop in the lobby of a less classy version of the luxe New York institution and celebrity favorite (so basically anywhere, really). The documentary emphasizes the hotel's privacy and discretion at every moment, so it never reveals too much about the building or its guests.
Entertaining anecdotes from employees and loyal customers from Condoleezza Rice to George Clooney give a sense of the hotel's grandeur, but they never reveal the juicy stories that would have made the film more compelling. Instead, "Always at the Carlyle" receives the architectural equivalent of hagiography, with no one — even a delightfully grumpy Harrison Ford — saying anything negative about the place (other than the price of a night's stay).
Filmmaker Matthew Miele directed the similarly gushy "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's," and this documentary revels in money, celebrity and proximity to both. Lit by flashes of the paparazzi's bulbs, it's a window into an experience that most will never have, but one wishes we would have gotten a deeper view of the hotel than Miele wants to — or could — show us. Each moment in "Always at the Carlyle" feels like a pitch. Though it's effective in presenting the hotel's appeal, the salesman's greasy fingerprints linger, a stain which would never be welcome at the pristine spot.
‘Always at the Carlyle’
Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive content, drug references and brief partial nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica