Opening 13 Sep 2007
I had no high hopes for a cooking movie/romantic comedy with this lame title. But, I was drawn against my better judgment by a strong urge get a second performance glimpse of Little Miss Sunshine cutie Abigail Breslin and cocky cutie Aaron Eckhart, who shone brilliantly in Thank You for Smoking. Plus, if I could choose to look like just one current film star, it would be either Monica Belluci or Catherine Zeta-Jones, for all of their non-blond voluptuousness.
Knowing that No Reservations (cringe) was a remake of a recommended German film (Bella Martha) which I never got around to seeing, I was at least rooting for a good Hollywood reprodution. It seemed like a long film as I looked at my watch twice, only to be let down by an expected ending where everyone lives happily ever after. No surprises.
Kate (Zeta-Jones) is a New York City chef whose life is her restaurant kitchen, as full of rules for the staff as she puts on her personal life. A typical Manhattan control freak who actually wonders why she needs to visit a shrink, Kate’s world is rocked by the sudden death of her sister as she receives custody of her teary, pre-teen niece Zoe (Breslin, who is propped before the cameras with shining, recently Oscar-nominated eyes in just about every scene to remind us that she is missing her mom). Additionaly, restaurant owner Paula (Patricia Clarkson) hires sous chef Nick (Eckhart), whose opera-singing, printed chef pants, gusto way of living spices up the kitchen but not Kate’s cold, cold heart. The triangle in place, we get to endure Zoe’s first smile when Nick makes her some real kid food (Kate has been making gourmet fish for the poor girl), Zoe using her weepy-eyed power to arrange a “family date”, Nick and Kate enjoying a dish of tiramisu on the living room floor in spite of themselves, and the inevitable overnight stay with pancakes for everyone in the morning.
You’d think with a Philip Glass score, great-looking food shots, and Oscar-caliber lead actors that the filmmakers would have all the right ingredients on the table for a delightful entreé. The problem lies in following the recipe directions so carefully that the end result is enjoyable but expected, and it sorely lacks the hodge-podge creative flair of a passionate chef. It would be two stars on the Michelin scale, but since we are talking obvious chick flick, I’ll throw in an extra one for the girls. I think I need a break from all things sous chef after my summer fare of Ratatouille and No Reservations and perhaps will meander to the video store in search of Bella Martha with English subtitles. (Kirstan Böttger)