No Reservations

No Reservations


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

She cooks, she stirs, she simmers and her saffron sauce is to die for. At upmarket restaurant 22 Bleecker the compliments just keep coming and top chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is in her element. She goes home each night to her Greenwich Village apartment, then she’s up again at 4.30am and it’s over to Brooklyn’s fish stalls to make her choice of the day’s catch. But her personal life is non-existent. She tells her therapist she hasn’t had a relationship in three years. She just can’t let anyone into her busy life. She can’t see why she needs therapy. (She was sent by her boss.) She has everything she needs in her kitchen.

Kate’s bubble bursts when her sister is killed in a car crash and she has to fulfil a promise by taking on the care of her nine-year-old niece, Zoe (Abigail Breslin). She soon returns to work, but when her boss (Patricia Clarkson) sees her sobbing in the cold storeroom she is told to take time off.

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Enter Nick (Aaron Eckhart) as her temporary replacement. Nick plays opera (all the good bits, like Nessun Dorma). He waves his arms around a lot. He loves everything Italian, and the kitchen staff can soon see that he’s a great guy. Poor uptight Kate is convinced he wants her job, though he says he only wants to work with her because he so admires her cooking. Pretty soon Kate slices the menu in half so that they can each work on their own dishes.

Meanwhile, how can Kate look after Zoe? She hires a babysitter who is obviously never going to be a good choice because she’s a goth. When this doesn’t work she takes Zoe with her to the restaurant. Soon Nick is charming Zoe, first into trying his food, then into helping in the kitchen, which she loves, all the while keeping one eye on Kate’s reactions.

Abigail Breslin is affecting without being mawkish as the little girl who longs for her mother. As capable here as in Little Miss Sunshine, she brings more depth to the part than either of the two adult leads. Aaron Eckhart can do handsome with a light touch. The scenes between him and Breslin are some of the best in the film.

Zeta-Jones never manages to engage our sympathy as someone mourning her sister or truly caring for her niece. Okay, it’s a rom-com, but in one rooftop scene I realised when the focus changed that I had been finding the buildings more interesting than Kate.

Eckhart and Zeta-Jones trained for their roles in the kitchen of the New York celebrity chef Michael White. The scenes of food preparation are fluent and convincing. All the food looks delicious. Let’s hope it wasn’t as bland as this romance.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2007
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A successful chef finds her life turned upside down after she is awarded custody of her niece as Mostly Martha gets a Hollywood makeover.
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Director: Scott Hicks

Writer: Carol Fuchs, Sandra Nettelbeck

Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade, Bob Balaban

Year: 2007

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Australia


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