No Reservations
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Scott Hicks
scr Carol Fuchs
with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Bob Balaban, Jenny Wade, Brian F O'Byrne, Lily Rabe, Celia Weston, Fulvio Cecere, Zoe Kravitz, Mario Morales
release US 27.Jul.07, UK 31.Aug.07
07/US Warner 1h44
No Reservations
Something's fishy: Zeta-Jones and Eckhart

breslin clarkson balaban

No Reservations Based on German filmmaker Sandra Nettelbeck's 2001 rom-com Mostly Martha, this American remake removes all of the scruffy edges for a slick, sludgy, romanticised love story that's only livened up by a another wonderfully grounded performance by Breslin.

Kate Armstrong (Zeta-Jones) is a top chef in New York who constantly annoys her patient boss (Clarkson) and therapist (Balaban) with her eccentric selfishness. When her sister dies in an accident, she inherits her 9-year-old niece Zoe (Breslin). To help in the kitchen, her boss hires a fiery assistant chef, Nick (Eckhart), from a local Italian restaurant. But Kate doesn't want to give up any control, and the two immediately lock horns despite their mutual attraction, plus the fact that Zoe bonds with Nick immediately.

Hicks directs this with that bouncy, bland Hollywood sheen that looks thoroughly professional, but is also overproduced and uninteresting. Even the food looks strangely contrived. To say nothing of the cast members' perfect faces, hair and fashion sense. This film has been set-dressed to within an inch of its life, and the twinkly/glowering performances don't make it any more believable. While solidly reliable actors like Clarkson and Balaban are sidelined in engaging but underwritten roles. No, the shining star in this film is the amazing Abigail Breslin.

While Zeta-Jones and Eckhart engage in likeable rom-com banter, bouncing from lovey-dovey flirtation to requisite I-hate-you vitriol, Breslin is quietly creating a character we really begin to engage with. Zoe is a feisty, thoughtful, observant child. Not only does she maintain an element of internalised grief through every scene (Zoe has just lost her mother, after all), but she even brings an intriguing dignity to the script's lame Little Miss Matchmaker subplot. By contrast, we only sense Kate's grief at losing her sister in a few extremely scripted moments, which are admittedly powerful.

There's a great story gurgling underneath the wringing sentimentality, and some very nicely played scenes wedged in between the formulaic musical montage sequences and over-rehearsed wackiness. And if you find the safari dinner party nearly vomitous, brace yourself for the film's shameless flood of climactic schmaltz. On the other hand, many moviegoers love the slushy stuff.

cert pg themes, some language, innuendo 5.Jul.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... No Reservations Pat, Boulder, Colorado: 1/5 "Another disappointing Hollywood remake. The original, Mostly Martha, was surprising in that the male lead wasn't immediately ideal looking. But his charm was overwhelming. Both Martha and Lina were convincingly exasperating, and that lent texture and believability to an otherwise overly simple story. Zeta-Jones and Eckhart are both very capable actors, so who's to blame? The actor has done fine work in the past, so could it be studio hacks or agents? I enjoy seeing Abigail Breslin and hope she gets another great vehicle, because surreptitiously religious flicks and crummy chick flicks ain't gonna showcase her talents well." (22.Jul.07)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall