August 3, 2007
Lately, there seems to be more food flying than a Gallagher show. First, there was the very fresh story of “Waitress,” with Kerri Russell; then the deliciously animated film, “Ratatouille,” starring a rat. Now, foodies everywhere will enjoy a sumptuous feast of “No Reservations,” with Academy Award-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”).
Based on the novel and German movie, “Mostly Martha,” by Sandra Nettlebeck, Kate (Zeta-Jones) is an obsessive-compulsive New York chef with a no-nonsense sense of intensity. Kate simultaneously dazzles and intimidates everyone in her limited world – her boss, co-workers and customers. Paula (Patricia Clarkson, “All the King’s Men”), the restaurant owner, sends Kate to a therapist, hopefully not the same as Lindsay Lohan’s.
Kate doesn’t understand why the world doesn’t understand, “It’s not that I’m controlling, it’s just that I want everything done exactly right, so, I need to do it myself.” Meanwhile, her sister, a carefree single mom, is coming to visit New York, toting her nine-year-old daughter, Zoe (Abilgail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”).
With a sudden change of events, Zoe has unexpectedly become Kate’s ward. At this time, the light and cheery chick flick also unexpectedly turns into a more serious family “dramedy.” There are some genuinely deep and troubling moments between Kate and Zoe as each must adjust to their new circumstances. Director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) demonstrates restraint to present subtle nuances depicting each emotion.
While Kate is temporarily away, Paula hires a new assistant chef. Nick (Aaron Eckhart, “Thank You for Smoking”) is a freewheeling and creative rising star, who captures the hearts of the staff, clients and Paula. Nick has a penchant for Pavarotti and fun. But, if he’s pasta, Kate must be anti-pasta. She is clearly offended by this upstart hash slinger.
In not so many words, Kate must think Nick is to truffles what KFC is to chicken. We’re sure she’d enjoy spraying him with the Cheese Whiz, if there were any at this snooty eatery. Instead, she begins a passive aggressive campaign against his very presence, which might be only slightly better than a food fight. Paula senses something is burning and calls for a truce to this new rivalry. Kate reluctantly backs down.
Kate has so many rules in the kitchen and in her life. She is the picture of discipline, which has proven to be a successful formula for her career; but not so much for her life style that is devoid of serious relationships. Nick agrees to do whatever Kate tells him to do. And then, does whatever he wants behind her back. This could work.
Little Zoe has so many stuffed animals she could easily hide E.T. in her closet. The animals provide some level of security in this new situation. Eventually, Kate brings Zoe to her work to watch the kitchen in action. There, Nick, whose loose fitting pants are almost as wild as those worn by our own Chef Scott Sebring at the Lighthouse, has a chance to impress Kate with his sincere attention to this troubled youngster.
Spoiler alert: This story defies the old wife’s tale, “You can’t have your Kate and eatery too.” In this case, these pastry chefs have a good chance to end up rolling in the dough. With each of them having their own unique set of issues to face, just maybe the three of them can be happy by being alone together.
“No Reservations” is rated PG for some sensuality and language. Although the topic is somewhat serious, it should not be offensive or too long (105 minutes) for any age group. The added element of the niece is a somewhat unique factor that spices up the traditional chick flick. But, when all is said and done, it still tastes kinda like chicken.
Little Amy Breslin is brilliant and even better here than in “Little Miss Sunshine.” Zeta-Jones and Eckhart have both previously played Snidely Whiplash roles with great gusto. They have sometimes thrived as the one you love to hate. Although Zeta-Jones can be a trifle intimidating as Kate in this weepy chick flick, they are both truly sympathetic characters. And, both successfully defy the old adage, “Never trust a skinny chef.”
Ron’s Rating: C Leigh’s Rating: B
Site Developed and Hosted by Web Excellence