Have ‘No Reservations’ about seeing this film

Thu, 08/02/2007 - 12:54pm
By: Emily Baldwin

I’m pleased to report that after the utter disappointment I faced last week with “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” this week was a whole different story. “No Reservations,” the new film starring high wattage stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Abigail Breslin, Aaron Eckhart and Patricia Clarkson, was a delightful trip to the theater, definitely surpassing my hopes for a decent film.

In “No Reservations” Zeta-Jones plays Kate, a talented and incredibly controlling top chef at 22 Bleeker Restaurant in Manhattan. Kate runs her kitchen with intensity and a no-nonsense attitude, which earn her both praise and fear from her staff and patrons alike. Her precision and absolute control in the kitchen allow her to coordinate hundreds of delicious and beautifully presented dishes each night in the midst of a frantic kitchen.

But just as with her approach in the kitchen, Kate has put strict guidelines on her personal life - not allowing anyone to get too close for fear that she’ll lose control, or worse- get hurt.

On the night Kate’s sister and niece are coming in for a visit, a tragic accident takes her sister’s life, leaving Kate as the only adult in her precocious niece Zoe’s (Breslin) life.

Without a clue how to raise a child, let alone one who is grieving over the loss of her mother, Kate does the only thing she knows how to do: she goes back to work. On arriving at her restaurant, without the staff’s foreknowledge, Kate discovers that her boss, restrauntuer Paula (Clarkson), has hired a temporary replacement, Nick (Eckhart), for Kate.

Nick is a passionate and talented sous-chef who prefers a more fluid and relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen, belting out Italian opera and laughing with the staff as they put together the night’s dishes. Nick comes from an Italian cuisine background, which is just the beginning of the things that annoy Kate about her new coworker. Forced to work together, Nick and Kate begin to build a friendship that blossoms into romance as they discover they have more in common than originally thought. Nick and Zoe hit it off and the three begin to look like a happy little family before Paula offers Kate’s job to Nick.

The betrayal Kate feels over Nick’s revelation of Paula’s offer puts the kibosh on all romantic feelings and life goes back to the dreary ways of the past. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete if things didn’t work out in the end, now would it?

While the film itself is completely predictable throughout, I really didn’t mind that one bit. The characters are complex and endearing, each in their own way.

Zeta-Jones has mastered the art of portraying the uptight shrew, and is convincing in her perplexed attempt at unexpected parenthood. Despite her uptight ways, Kate comes across as a genuine and loving person who is struggling to keep her grasp on what little control she has over life. In the end I found myself rooting for her to open up and enjoy life.

Eckhart, an underrated actor in my opinion, is completely lovable as Nick. His relationship with Zoe warms the heart and his passionate interest in food will leave most women wishing they knew a man like that!

It is Breslin, however, who lights up the screen with yet another stellar performance. This 11 year old, who has been nominated for an Oscar while capturing the hearts of America, is the real draw for this film. Her range is astounding; she manages to fluctuate from the role of a happy, healthy kid to a distraught orphan seamlessly and without a hint of overacting or artifice.

“No Reservations” is by no means an original work. Rather, it is a remake of Sandra Nettelbeck’s German film “Bella Martha” and boasts beautiful scores by Mark Isham, which were originally written for one of my favorites films, “Life as a House.” While the film lacks originality, perhaps it will bring attention to the talent of both Nettelbeck and Isham.

The film isn’t the playful romantic comedy trailers are making it out to be, rather it’s a serious film about the curveballs life throws at us and how these three people deal with those unexpected twists in life. The film is rated PG, but don’t let the rating fool you - it’s not a movie kids will enjoy.

Personally, I found it to be thoroughly engaging, and a sweet treat for the end of summer.

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