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Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Echhart star in 'No Reservations'

Review: ‘No Reservations’ is light bite of life

July 27, 2007 - 9:18AM

If you’re a foodie, this has been your summer. First “Waitress” served up a delectable confection of sugary delight, then “Ratatouille” arrived with an explosion of gastronomic enchantment, and now “No Reservations” appears to whet your appetite yet again. Although “No Reservations” serves up a menu of Franco-American fusion cuisine, the film actually has more in common with the well-known joke about Chinese fare — it satisfies while you’re sitting down at the table, but an hour later you’re hungry again.

“No Reservations” is based on (some would say “blatantly rips off”) the much-loved 2001 German film “Mostly Martha,” the story of a highly respected but temperamental chef whose well-ordered life is turned upside down in ways she cannot possibly anticipate.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Kate, a chef who runs her kitchen with military precision and lives her life like a recipe from one of her cookbooks — precise, ordered, without deviation or variation. Sure, her cooking is the talk of Manhattan, but Kate is anything but a people person — she doesn’t take criticism well, whether it comes from her boss, Paula (Patricia Clarkson) or the occasional unsatisfied customer.

Kate’s perfectly delineated life is torn into tatters when her sister is killed in a car crash and her niece, Zoe (Abigail Breslin) comes to live with her. Unable to take care of herself much less a child, Kate discovers that children are the ultimate disorder. Try as she might to make her feel welcome, everything Kate does seems to push Zoe further and further away.

During Kate’s absence, Paula hires Nick (Aaron Echhart), a freewheeling Italian sous-chef. Nick is everything Kate is not — flamboyant, friendly, unpredictable, light on his emotional feet and devilishly charming. Despite the fact that everyone else is in love with him, Kate sees the guileless upstart as making inroads on her job and does everything she can to drive him away. Yin to her yang, Nick is exactly what Kate needs, if she’s willing to bend her rules that keep her lonely and distanced from everyone around her. Slowly but surely, the French chef falls in love over Puccini and spaghetti.

Nick’s presence in Kate’s life will serve not only to melt her well-ordered heart, but also bring shy Zoe out of her traumatized shell. The film’s resolution, while emotionally satisfying, arrives far too quickly and tidily.

Director Scott Hicks’ (the Oscar nominated “Shine,” and the intoxicating exquisite “Snow Falling on Cedars”) latest film comes off as a standard romantic comedy trying desperately, but unsuccessfully, to be something deeper. However, an otherwise standard storyline is rescued by some terrific performances by the leads and Hick’s more than capable, if uninspired, direction.

“No Reservations” is like a love letter to Manhattan’s West Village and Greenwich, an area not unfamiliar with food and fine dining. “No Reservations” uses food to seduce. Food is a metaphor for that which we feed ourselves physically and emotionally, and the film urges us to slow down, let life in, and truly taste what it has to offer. Even disorder can be delicious.

Neither bland nor delectable, the heartfelt “No Reservations” won’t disappoint your pocketbook or send you over the moon, but for two hours it will make you forget about insipid summer blockbusters. That has to stand for something.

No Reservations

Cast: Catherine-Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin

Director: Scott Hicks Playing at: Cinemark, Tinseltown, Carmike, Chapel Hills

Rating: PG (for some sensuality and language)

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Grade: B-

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Catherine-Zeta Jones is HOT!

DM - Jul 27, 2007 07:02:24 AM Remove Comment

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