Aaron Eckhart and Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations (2007)




director: Scott Hicks; screenwriter: Carol Fuchs/based on the screenplay “Mostly Martha” by Sandra Nettelbeck; cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh; editor: Pip Karmel; music: Philip Glass; cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones (Kate), Aaron Eckhart (Nick), Abigail Breslin (Zoe), Patricia Clarkson (Paula), Jenny Wade (Leah), Bob Balaban (Therapist), Brian F. O’Byrne (Sean); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Kerry Heysen/Sergio Aguero; Warner Brothers; 2007)

“It goes down like a cold Big Mac.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bland remake of the German film Mostly Martha (2001). It’s a food-as-metaphor-for-life story (the lesson being it’s best to follow one’s own recipe in cooking and in life) that never gets past the kitchen and literally follows the same imperfect story of writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck. There’s absolutely no need for this remake, especially since the only creative change attempted was to transfer locations from a posh restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, to a posh restaurant on Bleecker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. Scott Hicks (“Shine”/”Snow Falling on Cedars”) throws all the familiar corny sitcom ingredients together into his undercooked remake; it does okay on the food part, but the story is too predictable, lacks any excitement, fails to elicit any comedy, and the stars, a miscast Zeta-Jones and a just going through the motions for a fat paycheck Eckhart, have no chemistry together. It goes down like a cold Big Mac.

Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the workaholic, control-freak master head chef in the duplicitous Paula’s (Patricia Clarkson) swank Greenwich Village neighborhood restaurant. When her single parent sister dies in a car crash, her eight-year-daughter Zoe (Abigail Breslin) comes to live with the uptight Kate. While Kate’s on a forced vacation for a week to get over her loss, Paula hires an opera loving free-spirited sous chef named Nick (Aaron Eckhart) to be her assistant. The corny script by first time writer Carol Fuchs then goes into the blender to show how the neurotic Kate, in therapy with a bland therapist (Bob Balaban), at first rejects the insecure Nick’s romantic advances and is rejected by Zoe because the kid grew up on junk food and can’t stand her guardian’s tastes and rigidity. But things settle down to normal when Kate is convinced the hunky new chef doesn’t want her job and the kid becomes reachable with just some parental support, as Nick shows how to relate with tenderness and Kate learns from her mistakes. The kid then brings the two adults together, and it ends on a gooey happy note whereby they open their own Greenwich Village restaurant and name it Zoe’s, Kate’s and Nick’s. It tries hard to please one’s culinary appetite, but ends up only as a paean to mediocrity.