Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Reservations

I don't have aspirations about becoming a chef. Let's just get that out of the way. However, I do like to see wonderful food prepared, especially if I get to eat it. This movie covered the first part wonderfully.

There's a great scene in the beginning, where Kate (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) is explaining to her shrink how she would prepare a certain dish, in great detail. Cut to a close-up of Bob Balaban, the psychiatrist, who has a glassy look in his eyes, obviously picturing the dish and longing for it.

It's a charming movie, full of wonderful details, mostly in the kitchen. Think Ratatouille with humans. And Zeta-Jones and her romantic sparring partner, played by Aaron Eckhart, hit every note and look like long-time chefs. They swing the dishcloth. They taste a little of everything they prepare.

The story sounds familiar. Kate works at her dream job as a chef at a restaurant run by the owner, who is played by the marvelous Patricia Clarkson. She's intense. She's not well-liked because she's not nice. And she's been known to confront critical customers who pass on that the beef isn't rare enough. However, her sister dies suddenly, and leaves a 10-year-old child, played by Abigail Breslin. While she takes some time off, Clarkson moves Eckhart in to temporarily sub. Sparks fly and romance grows.

The movie is short on plot, for sure. We know at some point Breslin's kid is going to cause a scene and wake Kate up. But we needn't worry about that. What the movie lacks in story it makes up in the details of the chef's life, details that give us an inkling of how demanding this life is. Zeta-Jones lets her hair down, literally, and leaves most of the makeup behind. She actually underplays Kate's personality, which may be one reason why the movie is so slow at times, and bland. Eckhart is the variable in the plot, and is unpredictable, but he still follows all of the sous chef's rules, so how out of control could this character really be? I keep using the word "charm" -- in truth, Eckhart exudes all the charm here. In a rather sincere way.

I was expecting a comedy. It's not a comedy. There are a few funny lines, but not at the expense of character. It's a romantic kitchen drama, I guess.

Think Ratatouille without the laughs. Oh, and without the wonderfully written story. Oh, but with beautiful people and great looking food. I really wished I could have had a taste.

Thumb's up.


At 4:13 PM, Blogger Sheryl said...

I haven't seen this yet, but I saw the original German film it was based on, Mostly Martha. It sounds as if the original was better than the remake. Still not a comedy but good.


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