No Reservations (review)

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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