On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, No Reservations is a slyly sensual, succulent 7, a deliciously delectable froth in which food is the metaphor for love and life.
I wish there was a cookbook for life, muses temperamental chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as the precise complications of creating magnifique haute cuisine pale in comparison with the dilemma of nurturing her 10 year-old, recently orphaned niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin).
While neurotic Kates been seeing or, rather, feeding – a therapist (Bob Balaban), refusing to discuss her control issues, when the owner (Patricia Clarkson) of her Greenwich Village restaurant, 22 Bleecker Street, brings in a scruffy, gregarious but strong-willed new sous-chef, Nick (Aaron Eckhart), shes thoroughly steamed.
Kates palate is strictly French her signature dish is quail in saffron truffle sauce – while Nicks culinary taste is Italian, his tasty pasta accented in its preparation by classical opera.
As Kate flounders before finding a recipe for happiness, she discovers that if you mix in traumas and tears with some poignant moments and a touch of sexual tension – cooking can not only be fun but it can also heal broken hearts.
Although their roles are a bit undercooked (a.k.a. underwritten), Catherine Zeta-Jones icy, emotionless perfectionism gradually and subtly melts as she heats up some affectionate warmth, while Aaron Eckhart keeps his carefree earthiness from turning into a romantic leading man cliché. And Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) delivers a touching portrayal of a grieving child, seeking solace where she can find it.
A remake of the 2001 German import Mostly Martha, its been predictably Americanized by screenwriter Carol Fuchs and director Scott Hicks (Shine), who co-owns a vineyard in Australia with his producer wife Kerry Heysen; note his Yacca Paddock label.