No Reservations (review)

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Honestly, the best thing you can do is go rent Mostly Martha, the 2002 German film this Hollywood remake is based very, very closely on. But if you really can’t stand to read subtitles, then this is your next best bet. It’s the rare romantic comedy that recognizes that it isn’t artificial obstacles that keep potential couples apart and keep us all from romantic happiness, but our own hangups, our own head-case-ness. This is one of those rare movies, which means, because it isn’t dealing in sitcom shenanigans, that it’s more of a dramedy than a flat-out laugh riot. Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones: Ocean’s Twelve) is a successful, celebrated New York chef, wholly contented in her work, and seemingly in her life, too: if other people have a problem with her prickly perfectionism, well, that’s no concern of hers. But then her sister dies and single-and-fine-with-it Kate gets an instant family in the form of her nine-year-old niece, Zoe (Abigail Breslin: Little Miss Sunshine). Further complications arise when the new sous chef in her restaurant, Nick (Aaron Eckhart: The Black Dahlia), turns out to be, you know, a really great guy who endears himself to grieving Zoe and rattles Kate’s emotional complacency. These three are all real people — Kate’s self-involvement is not portrayed as villainy or bitchiness, as these kinds of films so often tend to do; Nick is not so ridiculously ideal that he’s a caricature; and Zoe feels like a genuinely troubled and miserable kid (and with good reason to be) — and how they all help one another rings with sweet sincerity. But all of this was true of Mostly Martha, too. Why anyone would choose to adhere so closely to the original while remaking another film is a huge mystery — a remake should have something new to say, or it’s pretty pointless. If Martha didn’t exist, I’d be raving over this movie, but Martha got my rave first.

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Mon, Jul 30, 2007 7:37pm

Wow. I have to say, based on the preview, I expected this to be crap. Cute kid? Check. Love interest? Check. Uptight female professional in “need” of a man and a kid? Check. So I’m quite surprised to hear the good review and may not reject it out of hand after all – it depends on what I hear from professional cooks about how realistic the kitchen is. (For reference, the kitchen in “Ratatouille” was much-praised by folks in the industry.) I get caught up in details like that.

Then again, I might just rent “Mostly Martha.” When in doubt, go for the original.

Wed, Aug 01, 2007 11:45pm

Mostly Martha was great, I have to say, though I swear I spent at least a solid hour after I saw the trailer for this remake trying to dredge up what the original was titled.

John cena
Mon, Aug 06, 2007 7:44am

Has anyone already got the HD DVD shipped?
Or has anyone any more info about its availability?

I can’t wait! I must have it! :)

Stephanie P
Stephanie P
Wed, Aug 15, 2007 2:46pm

I’m glad you mentioned Mostly Martha; it’s one of my favorite romantic comedies. I don’t want to see No Reservations simply because I’m sure the makers took all the sweetness and realism of Mostly Martha and turned it into a test-group pleaser full of pretty movie stars and middle of the road, predictable garbage.

Laurie D. T. Mann
Wed, Aug 22, 2007 9:51pm

I took my 13-year-old niece to see this today. She thought it was OK, while I genuinely enjoyed it.

I’m not a huge fan of remakes, but the three leads (along with the neighbor Sean, and the pregnant cook Leah and the restaurant manager played by Patricia Clarkson) had wonderful chemistry together. There are also clever overtones of Lenny Henry’s old Britcom Chef in the flick.

I had the most trouble with the way Zoe (who was recovering from the car accident and getting used to a brand new life) was made to follow Kate’s exceedingly non-kid-friendly schedule. Also, the school principal seemed way, way too nice to Kate, given the fact that they’d only met about once before the principal had to talk about Zoe’s falling asleep in school.

One other minor complaint about the treatment of Zoe – it looked like the same person who designed her outfits for Little Miss Sunshine had a hand in her costuming for No Reservations.

However, I adored the “safari” scene, and thought it was one of the cuter “first date” scenes. Also, Eckert usually plays crusty, nasty characters, so to see him playing a manic flake was more than cute.

And all of Catherine Zeta-Jones scenes with Bob Balaban were a hoot.

If it’d seen Mostly Martha, I might feel differently, but since I haven’t, I had a good time with it.