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NO RESERVATIONS

SYNOPSIS:
Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the popular and successful chef at Paula's (Patricia Clarkson) small but busy New York restaurant, entirely dedicated to her job, with no time or headspace (or heartspace) for anyone else. Her single mum sister Leah (Jenny Wade) is about to drive to New York to visit Kate with Leah's 8-year old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin); but when a tragic accident leaves Zoe without a mother, Kate honours her promise to take care of Zoe. And just as Zoe comes into her life, so does Nick (Aaron Eckhart), a flamboyant sous-chef hired by Paula, by whom she feels threatened. She doesn't cope well with either intrusion.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Inevitably losing something in the translation from the wonderfully entertaining yet sincere original German film, Mostly Martha (2002), by writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck, No Reservations lacks the edginess and the depth that made Mostly Martha a standout. Where Martha was a genuine square and the incoming chef a genuine bohemian Italian, No Reservations gives us a Kate who is only playing at it all and a Nick whose Italian nature (such as it is) is signified by lots of opera during cooking. The sharpness and the charm should come from the big scale strength of the opposites - a proud and fussy German spinster in conflict with a warm, big hearted and crumpled Italian. Nor are the kitchen scenes so compelling.

Even for those who haven't seen Mostly Martha it is evident that Zeta-Jones and Eckhart just don't have the chemistry, no matter how hard Australian director Scott Hicks tries to fire up the Bunsen burner. For all their respective talents, Zeta-Jones and Eckhart can't match the emotional tension that Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellito created with Nettelbeck.

But the fault lies equally with this remake screenplay, losing its balance between the two facets of the relationship story. The Zoe/Kate and Nick/Kate relationships should work as polar opposites of the emotional forces that drive the screenplay, but here, the Zoe/Kate story overwhelms the very slow burning romantic undertow of Kate & Nick. And while on the subject of Zoe, Abigail Breslin - of Little Miss Sunshine fame - is the best thing in the film.

All in all, though, I can't help feeing that some unseen force or forces were hampering the outcome of No Reservations, whose title tries to be ironic but has no foundation in the story.

Review by Louise Keller:
Food may be a metaphor for love, but this remake of the German-language film Mostly Martha, only goes to prove that too many cooks spoil the broth. While it is not a bad film, the situations feel as plastic as those little food samples in the window of a Japanese restaurant. Director Scott Hicks is unable to capture the magic of the original, and Aaron Eckhart is miscast as the sous-chef who disturbs the culinary-driven predictability of Catherine Zeta-Jones' kitchen. It's a surprisingly faithful remake, even to the selection of some of the music (notably Paolo Conte's Calogero Via Con Me), but on its own terms, like a mediocre meal, the film fails to satisfy.

Cooking is more than a passion to Zeta-Jones' Kate. It is her life. A perfectionist whose only conversation is food, Kate can't stop fantasising about the delectable dishes she aspires to create - even to her shrink (Bob Balaban). Eckhart's Nick is an Italianophile, loving all things Italian - from Opera to spaghetti. Trouble is, Eckhart looks out of place in the kitchen, seriously jeopardising the premise. (Italian superstar Sergio Castellito was perfectly cast in the original; I would put my hand up for his cooking any day of the week.) Kate is oblivious to everything beyond what she can create on a platter; tempers flare in the heat of the kitchen and subside in the chill of the cool room. The integration of Abigail Breslin's Zoe in Kate's life should be moving and heartfelt, yet the emphasis falls on too many stuffed toys. There is not enough establishment in the all-important kitchen scene in which Nick, with a light touch, manages to get Zoe to start eating again, much to Kate's surprise.

There's little chemistry between Zeta-Jones and Eckhart, and their on-screen relationship feels fabricated with little at stake. Even the scene in which Nick blindfolds Kate for a romantic and sensual taste-test falls flat. All in all, No Reservations is a real disappointment. This is a case of the essence being well and truly lost in translation.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

SCOTT HICKS + KERRY HAYSEN INTERVIEW

NO RESERVATIONS (PG)
(US/Aust, 2007)

CAST: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Bob Balaban, Jenny Wade, Brian F. O'Byrne, Patricia Clarkson

PRODUCER: Sergio Aquero, Kerry Heysen

DIRECTOR: Scott Hicks

SCRIPT: Carol Fuchs ( screenplay Mostly Martha Sandra Nettelbeck)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stuart Dryburgh

EDITOR: Pip Karmel

MUSIC: Philip Glass

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barbara Ling

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 23, 2007







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