Movie Review: No Reservations
By Ron Wilkinson Jul 27, 2007, 6:57 GMT
Master chef Kate Armstrong (CATHERINE ZETA-JONES) lives her life like she runs the kitchen at upscale 22 Bleecker Restaurant in Manhattan—with a no-nonsense intensity that both captivates and intimidates everyone around her. With breathtaking precision, she powers through each hectic shift, coordinating hundreds of meals, preparing delicate sauces, seasoning and simmering each dish to absolute perfection. More at ease behind the scenes, Kate only leaves the sanctuary of her kitchen ...more
Zeta-Jones, Eckhart and Breslin play second fiddle to “Ratatouille” in what amounts to romantic drama fast food.
If you saw Catherine Zeta-Jones duke in out with Renee Zellweger in “Chicago” and you loved her, skip this flick. It’s better you remember her that way. In her Best Supporting Actress role as passion killer Velma Kelly she was the ultimate essence of down-and-dirty tough love. She said it like is was and made no bones about it, and that went for her response to the deceased half of her sister act when Velma caught her in the sack doing an encore with Velma’s less than faithful hubby. As to her borderline lethal friction with her new dance partner, her quote: “Show business is the only job where it’s OK to hate your partner,” says it all.
Be that as it may, if “Chicago” is the real deal, director Scott Hick’s and pensters Carol Fuchs’ and Sandra Nettelbeck’s “No Reservations” is only half-baked. It throttles the audience with a choke-hold of pretentiousness that even child star Abigail Breslin can’t break. Aaron Eckhart, after his great work in “Thank You for Smoking” and “In the Company of Men,” should blush after playing wise-ass sous chef Nick in this farce. In “Smoking” he was a self-accepting jerk with a broad streak of vulnerability. In “Reservations” he is a vulnerable genius with a broad streak of jerkiness.
So, in total, we have three reasons to miss this film. The first is to see Zeta-Jones in “Chicago” instead, the second is to see Eckhart in “Smoking” instead and the third, yes, is to see Ms. Breslin in her great performance in “Little Miss Sunshine” instead.
The location is Greenwich Village in New York City at a restaurant that nobody who will see this film could afford to patronize, if it existed, which it doesn’t. The other location is Kate Armstrong’s (Zeta-Jones) apartment, which is a $ zillion per month spread that only mayor Bloomberg hisself could afford, two blocks from the restaurant. Kate spends very little time in her pad until she inherits Zoe (Breslin) as a result of a death in the family. At that point she takes Zoe home and abandons her for work at the restaurant. It is up to self-effacing wisecracker Nick to save the day, solve Zoe’s bereavement trauma, bring love into Kate’s life and revolutionize the world of gourmet cooking. Of course, when all is said and done he gets to move into Kate’s apartment, which is a substantial reward.
Patricia Clarkson (Station Agent), as eatery owner Paula, joins the walking-wounding of under-used talent as she tries to intervene in Kate’s life and get her into therapy. Bob Balaban rounds out the list as the shrink without a cause.
The camera work is hum-drum with all of the expected gratuitous NYS placement shots that make tourists from San Bernardino to Walla Walla want to visits the cozy and intimate confines of the Village, at least until they run out of money or the freaks come out. Breslin steals the show from both Eckhart and Zeta-Jones, which ain’t saying much. If the appeal of this film is to food-lovers or amateur chefs, it will be kicked into the dumpster by “Ratatouille” which was released several weeks ago. The rat’s lines far outstrip anything said by any of the three leads.
If happy endings get filmmakers a place in heaven, the producers’ future is assured as the audience is left with a kiss and, doubtlessly, black ink at the box office.