“No Reservations,” review by Susan Granger

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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 Kate’s 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), she’s thoroughly steamed.

Kate’s palate is strictly French – her signature dish is quail in saffron truffle sauce – while Nick’s 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,” it’s 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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.