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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Weekend TV Movie Review: No Reservations (2007), Five

No Reservations
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Bob Balaban
Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $92 million 

Plot: The life of a top chef changes when she becomes guardian of her young niece

'There Is Practically So Little Heat That I Got Out Of This Kitchen'

Films about food are either good or interesting such as Hong Kong comedy, Chicken & Duck Talk - or downright forgettable and not very appealing.

A fruitless effort of a film, No Reservations turns out to be a romantic drama lacking in romantic passion, as well as chemistry from Zeta-Jones and Eckhart, thus, making this twosome a mismatch. 

The movie focuses on the culinary offerings of the kitchen and of the heart. Kate is an uptight, prickly and stubborn New York chef, whose priorities change when she becomes a guardian and is left to care for her sister's niece after she dies in a car crash. After taking a few days off to properly mourn her passing and take care of Zoe, when she returns to the restaurant, Kate angrily finds out that the free-spirited, easy-going Nick has taken over in her place. At first, the pair doesn't get along, but over time, he starts to win Zoe over with his spaghetti, win Kate over with his charms and no sooner do they fall for each other. The kitchen scenes work efficiently with the cooking and preparation of the food and the dishes. Nick and Kate are supposed to be and end up being drawn together; unfortunately, the chemistry between Catherine-Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart is sorely lacking - with Jones, for me, the weaker of the two leads and of the female/male pairing.

No Reservations is a remake of the German film, Mostly Martha and it plays out as a romantic drama, but without any spark, ingenuity, real moments of interest or excitement, it's the cinematic equivalent of a dish lacking in flavour and seasoning. The subplots themselves don't amount to much whatsoever. And that is a shame because Eckhart, for me anyway, was the bright spark of this picture and whenever he was onscreen, he made it watchable with his presence. Catherine Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, her character, Kate should be more spontaneous, imaginative, her passion for food and cooking is supposed to be more charismatic, lively, energetic but not too wild and crazy. However, the one thing I didn't really buy was Kate's transformation as a character; I don't think it has evolved a great deal and neither were their signs in her character that made her more likeable and interesting. That can also be partly due to the casting of Zeta-Jones; I liked her in Traffic and she fared well in America's Sweethearts, Chicago and The Mask of Zorro. Yet her past character performances hardly elicited compassion and warmth. She did good for the first half of the film, but after that, I didn't really get a sense that she was a chef, as all of my focus was on the kid, Zoe and sous-chef, Nick. Out of the two main leads, I have to say, Zeta-Jones looked out-of-place compared to Eckhart, who pretty much approaches his role with a charm and performs it as if I could buy him as an actual chef: the way he pronounces certain culinary terms, explains how to prepare the dishes, his attentiveness was just spot-on. Nick is a guy who though loves his job, loves being a chef, he still endears himself to Zoe & is a nice guy. Abigail Breslin's performance was all right, although I didn't really care for that character and she offered nothing of consequence to this film, despite the critics' appraisal for her turn. 

Honestly, what we have here is a half-baked effort, where the food looks appetizing to eat and its appearance is all showy - yet it doesn't go into details or the finer points on how it tastes, as well as it cooks. Nor does the relationship aspect of Eckhart and Zeta-Jones characters work so well. 

Final Verdict:

Whereas Ratatouille resorts to magical artistic inspiration and impressive animated CGI to express the joy of food and cooking, this film relies on a cliched script that lacks energy and sparkle, whilst there is nothing about it that springs to life. It's so pedestrian, normal and passe. 

More than just fine dining, No Reservations is a frozen TV dinner that looks tempting and good based on the outside packaging, but when you open it up, it's actually rather shoddy and not very appetising. 

The direction is too safe, too basic and though No Reservations is not a completely horrible film overall, it's just too bland, formulaic and nothing about it springs to life. It's every romantic film you can think of, but set in the context of cooking and food and its done in such a way that isn't so interesting. 

Uninspiring for a film about cooking, - and cooking is supposed to inspire and tantalize one's taste-buds, senses, passion for food -, unoriginal given it is based on the German film, but it is also a remake that doesn't try and offer something exciting and bold. But for Aaron Eckhart's performance, it's still too ordinary and forgettable. 

Though it made over $100 million at the box office, the thing is still, there are plenty of other better and far more interesting romantic comedies that have done the ''boy- meets- girl, the two fall in love'' thing far better than this one. 

And it is for that reason itself, that No Reservations is a film that I have absolutely no reservations in watching, again. 


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