Sunday, 20 September 2020
No Reservations
Tuesday, 24 July 2007 00:00
In the past few days I have taken in two movies about kitchens and cooking. One was a charming amuse bouche flavored with wit, charm, great performances and a tinge of melancholy. The other a flavorless mush, consisting of reheated clichés. It might be surprising to discover that the first and best of these two films is about a cartoon rat. Pixar’s Ratatouille is a charmer that will please children and adults alike. But unfortunately this review is about a culinary catastrophe called No Reservations.

Catherine Zeta Jones stars in this supposed romantic-comedy although where the comedy disappeared to I’m not sure. Kate is the head chef of a trendy restaurant, but her hot temper and sharp tongue cause trouble for her employer (Patricia Clarkson). For instance when a customer complains about an overcooked steak she storms out of the kitchen brandishing a bloody steak on a knife and demands “Is that rare enough for you?” She is forced into seeing a stereotypical shrink who stares blandly at her and makes meaningless comments. These are by far the most wasteful moments in the film and could have been cut entirely.

Kate’s structured little world falls apart when her sister dies in a car accident leaving her to care for a 9 year old niece played by the wonderful Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). Also against her wishes the restaurant hires a new sous-chef by the name of Nick (Aaron Eckhart). He’s your typical lively charmer with an over the top sense of fun and really ugly pants – the complete opposite to Kate’s stick-in-the-mud-ishness. She’s unable to bond with the girl until Nick shows her how to relate, and she fights him the whole way. But of course the sexual tension is too hot (or in this case too “not”) to handle and they end up in a relationship fueled by their passion for a well-tied apron. Really there isn’t a lot of chemistry between these two stars. They might as well be on an infomercial for stainless steel cookware.

It’s unfortunate with such a promising cast of players that this film is never able to rise above its cliché-ridden premise. Catherine Zeta Jones is a jewel to look at but lacks her usual conviction as an actress. Here she just seems to be going through the motions without much depth of character. Eckhart on the other hand is trying too hard, but his opera loving, cleft-chinned wanderer fails to really win us over. Patricia Clarkson as their boss is undefined. Is she an uptight bitch, a sympathetic mother figure, or is she trying to seduce Nick? I could never tell!

This is a great looking movie with some beautiful set design that captures the sumptuousness of big city chic. Since this is a movie about cooking it’s important that the food look great, and it does. One shot in particular of some spectacular looking deserts had my friends drooling into their popcorn. But the same rule applies in movies as in food, and that is “looks aren’t everything”.

No Reservations is a forgettable romance that has style but lacks substance. I give it 4 out of 10 stars. I’ll take rats in the kitchen over this any day.