No Reservations

 
Directed by: Scott Hicks
Written by:Carol Fuchs, Sandra Nettelbeck
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Bob Balaban, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade
Released: August 23, 2007
Grade: A-

Australian Scott Hicks is one of my favourite film directors.  His last three films have all been terrific – Shine, Snow Falling On Cedars and Hearts In Atlantis.  I admit to being surprised when I first heard that he was directing No Reservations.  It’s a remake of a 2001 German film called Mostly Martha which I’d already seen and wasn’t particularly fond of.  Couldn’t he have found a more interesting script?

Once again, I’ve fallen victim to the rule that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  No Reservations is a terrific romantic drama where all the elements of good moviemaking have come together.

Kate (Zeta-Jones) is one of the most successful chefs working in New York City.  Those that have tasted her dishes (including her special saffron sauce) have always come back for more.  Her food may be divine but her personality is a little prickly.  She’s a control freak in the kitchen and her staff are somewhat fearful of her.  Away from work, she lives alone and hasn’t been in a relationship for a number of years.

At the restaurant one evening, Kate receives tragic news.  Her sister was involved in a car accident and did not survive.  In her will, Kate’s sister has asked that she look after her daughter, Zoe (Breslin).  What follows is a difficult period for them both.  Zoe is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death and the fact that she now has a new home and a new school.  Kate is struggling with the fact that her lifestyle has been forever changed.  Having devoted her life to her work, she now has to find time to raise a young girl.

When Kate takes a short period of time off work, the restaurant’s owner (Clarkson) brings in a new chef.  His name is Nick (Eckhart) and Kate is furious when she learns of his appointment.  After voicing her disapproval to pretty much everyone, Kate reluctantly agrees to put up with him.  It doesn’t take long for Kate to warm to Nick’s sense of humour and strange work habits.  Zoe thinks they’d be perfect for each other and does a little meddling to ensure that is the case…

There are a few sad moments for the most part, No Reservations left a happy smile on my face.  The key to the film are the three great performances turned in from Catherine-Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin.  I had a chance to see Breslin in person at the Queensland premiere.  When she spoke on stage before the film, she seemed a little nervous.  It’s exactly what you’d expect from an 11 year old.  But when you see her on screen, you’ll be amazed.  She’s a natural talent who gives a performance worthy of any experienced adult.

Romantic films aren’t my favourite genre (as you’d know by reading some of my other reviews) but No Reservations won me over.  With a nice story and some tasty looking cuisine, it was just what my taste buds for looking for.