While it may or may not be true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Scott Hicks’ hi-caloric cinematic confection No Reservations has something quite different in mind. That is, a career-driven female food maven who is so in love with her own gourmet recipes, that the gender of the gastronomic recipient couldn’t matter less. In other words, the possibility of rounding up a little quality intimacy in her solitary life according to this one track mind perfectionist chef, pales in comparison to an apparently infinitely more romantic interlude locking lips around a luscious quail, cooked to perfection with just a touch of pink on the breast.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is Kate, the celebrated chef in question in No Reservations, crafting designer dinner delicacies like works of art at a downtown upscale NY eatery. But for 22 Bleecker’s owner Paula (Patricia Clarkson) her star chef’s mouthwatering wonders are a decided mixed blessing. With her readily offended, stubborn attitude that the customer is always wrong, Kate simply won’t tolerate dishes sent back to the kitchen for any accusations of cooking irregularity, and such an unfortunate customer is inevitably subjected to a tableside sound scolding.
While Paula doesn’t want to part ways with her treasured chef, she insists that Kate is in need of some serious restaurant rage management, and sends her off to mandatory sessions with a shrink (Bob Balaban). But Kate is soon into major role reversal with her therapist, cooking up an analysis of his food tastes and supplying her own kitchen cure.
As a last resort, Paula hires Nick (Aaron Eckhart) to share chef duties, a carefree opposite of Kate in personality whom she hopes will ease the pressure cooker atmosphere for the customers and kitchen staff alike. An appalled Kate is at the same time forced to make room in her increasingly crowded life with her troubled young niece, Zoe (Abigail Breslin), who moves in with her. This somber detour in the story has heartfelt appeal as Kate gets in touch with her inner maternal instinct that she is obviously taking such pains to deny. But the mix of stressful surrogate motherhood and romantic comedy is often jarring and never quite blends.
No Reservations, which is based on Sandra Nettelbeck’s celebrated German import, Mostly Martha, is a zesty concoction of offbeat, temperamental characters who do their best to resist one another in matters of the heart, while also swallowing a whole lot more than their pride. Zeta-Jones is a commanding screen presence, her striking beauty delicately tempered by profound insecurities and rigid obsessive zeal. And Eckhart as the seductively casual charmer, nicely breaks down her brittle defenses as he coaxes her to hey, just lighten up. But be forewarned: eating a hearty dinner is highly recommended prior to partaking of the immense pleasures of this culinary laden delight.
Warner Home Video
DVD Features: Featurettes: Unwrapped; Host Marc Summers visits the set and talks to the film’s stars for an episode on his Food Network Series.