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  Publicity Stills of "No Reservations"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Comedy/Romance
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jenny Wade, Lily Rabe, Patricia Clarkson
RunTime: 1 hr 44 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: NoReservationsmovie.WarnerBros.com

Opening Day: 6 September 2007



Master chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) lives her life like she runs her kitchen at a trendy Manhattan eatery—with a no-nonsense intensity that both captivates and intimidates everyone around her. Kate's perfectionist nature is put to the test when she "inherits" her nine-year-old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin), while contending with a brash new sous-chef who joins her staff. High-spirited and freewheeling, Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart) couldn't be more different from Kate, yet the chemistry between them is undeniable. Rivalry becomes romance, but Kate will have to learn to express herself beyond the realm of her kitchen if she wants to connect with Zoe and find true happiness with Nick.

Movie Review:

When was the last time we saw Catherine Zeta-Jones? Yes, it was during that action-packed, swashbuckling flick, Legend of Zorro, back in 2005. Admittedly, I was considerably excited by the prospect of watching Zeta-Jones return to her Ocean’s Twelve and, more relevant to this film, Intolerable Cruelty and America’s Sweethearts’ effusive brilliance. No Reservations wisely grants her sufficient screen time and character clout to fully flesh out her role as Kate, a master chef who lives little life outside her job at 22 Bleecker Restaurant, where she rules with an iron fist. Sadly, No Reservations hits the table like a lightweight appetiser masquerading as a main course – complete with uninterested waiters frittering away the tremendous potential of a lavish décor and setting.

In a sufficiently satisfying but uninspired performance, the film sees master chef Kate encounter a turbulent period in her life – her perfectionist, confident streak is tested by the death of her sister, which leaves a temperamental and emotionally fragile niece Zoe in her care. Meanwhile, after her temporary absence on compassionate leave, she faces the sudden appearance of Nick, (played by a charming but ultimately bland Aaron Eckhart) a carefree, almost blithe chef schooled in Italian cuisine. Everything pans out expectedly as Kate grapples with issues while searching for respite, discovering life, love and meaning along the way. Unfortunately, about two-thirds into the movie, the thought that kept popping in my mind was – is this it, to warrant a whole 104 minutes?

Zeta-Jones does an admirable job selling her master chef character: the alert and perfectionistic persona barking orders in the kitchen while meticulously crafting lovely works of food provided a believable and absorbing setting. However, it felt extremely laboured, largely due to a underperforming supporting cast. Its hard for Zeta-Jones to max out the angst of her earnest yet decidedly inexperience love for her niece Zoe when Abigail Breslin fails to exude on onscreen presence akin to the likes of Haley Joel Osment, instead coming across as a petulant child, despite a heartstring-tugging and almost cathartic performance, at times. Inevitably, the audience feels much pity and become discernibly sympathetic towards Zeta-Jones.

Her on-screen paramour does little to improve things. Eckhart strikes a raw nerve right from his introduction, his dalliance while singing Italian opera (in a terrible, terrible rendition) prancing around a kitchen where all stood still and laughed smacked terribly of rom-com cheesiness and, ultimately, a lack of credibility and believability. The caricatured nature of his character continues, as Nick seeks every opportunity to exude the “Italian charm” that the scriptwriters felt simply had to sway both Zeta-Jones and the audience. It didn’t.

It would be best to ignore efforts at comparing No Reservations to the 2001 German film Mostly Martha, upon which this film is based on. If you caught Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh’s Priceless, (which I happened to review with almost similar sentiments) you will encounter the exact same feeling – a classy rom-com script with amazing potential that somehow conspire to produce the substandard fare despite its top-rate stars.

The crux of the issue is, in all probability, Hollywood’s unpolished attempts at creating an American experience in a subgenre that is decidedly European in class, elegance and appeal. Having Raoul Bova draw Diane Lane into his arms with authentic Italian charm, amidst a beautiful Tuscan setting (in the unheraldedly successful Under The Tuscan Sun, 2003), hits the sweet spot perfectly. Having a distinctively Italian-wannabe American living in a dump of a suburb (yet having a preposterously immaculate and posh apartment past the doorframe) trying to bait Zeta-Jones with his smile, does not.

Catherine Zeta-Jones seemed as tired in her craft as her on screen-persona was in the kitchen - too tired to carry the film like the flagship star the film badly needed her to be. This film is like a homely yet respected, two Michelin star restaurant - full of earnest effort. I have no reservations about the sweetness of this film, and if you are willing to sit in and appreciate a pleasing soufflé, do give No Reservations a chance.

Movie Rating:

Review by Daniel Lim

(Catherine Zeta-Jones seemed as tired in her craft as her on screen-persona was in the kitchen - too tired to carry the film like the flagship star the film badly needed her to be)

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