Monday, August 13, 2007

Christie's Monday Morning Review: NO RESERVATIONS

Catherine Zeta-Jones (Kate), Aaron Eckhart (Nick)

Director: Scott Hicks (Hearts in Atlantis, Snow Falling on Cedar, Shine)

Warning! =Very slight= spoiler in this brief plot summary: The life of Kate, a control-freak chef, (Zeta-Jones) overturns when she must care for her orphaned niece and deal with the charismatic and carefree new chef who not only invades her restaurant kitchen but also—maybe—her heart.

Perfect set-up for a romantic comedy/drama, yes? I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I caught the first teaser on TV and immediately called my friend, Barbara Samuel (aka Ruth Wind) because we were both in the final death throes of books with heroines that are chefs. (An aside, I can’t tell you how often friends and I are working on books that we will surprise ourselves when we find out they have parallel or similar elements.)

Back to the movie. I loved the scenes of a working, upscale restaurant in NYC. I worked as a waitress in high school and Surfer Guy (my dh) was a bartender in grad school, so I don’t have a very romantic notion of food service. Been there, done that, smelled the moldy-bleachy bar mats. But there was something about the way the movie depicted the speed of the workers and their focus on the presentation that made me rethink my aversion to a job that means you work when most everyone else is off. (I had my share of Christmas Eve shifts, you see.)

The situation for the Zeta-Jones character and her niece was heartwrenching. Some wonderful touches when the little girl moves in her menagerie of stuffed animals and is politely horrified by the non-kid-friendly food that her chef-aunt presents her at mealtimes. However, because the Zeta-Jones character is so rigid and controlling with her emotions, the moments of aunt-niece interaction took a long time to warm up. Yes, it was intentional, but it made me like the Zeta-Jones character less.

The relationship between the hero and heroine was one of those fun, he-listens-to-blaring-opera-and-she-likes-quiet kind. Nick wore her down and seemed to genuinely like and admire chef Kate. He knew the niece from the inside-out because he was still much of a kid himself. I bought that Kate needs a guy like that.

So, there was a lot of potential here, but as I complained about with the last romantic movie I reviewed (Music & Lyrics), the screenwriter just didn’t get the beats of the story right. We romance authors really understand what moments need to be shown on screen for us to believe in the big pay-off at the end. Hollywood should talk to us! This movie seemed like a scattered selection of scenes about likeable people in a touching situation…but the story beats weren’t presented in an order and with the kind of depth that creates a truly memorable movie that makes me sigh at the wonderful happy-ever-after.

It was okay for a hot summer afternoon, but waiting for it to come out on DVD or even on TV wouldn’t be a big loss.

So, what about you? Seen the movie? Have thoughts on romantic comedy/drama and Hollywood? Feel in any way romantic about restaurant work?

p.s. On imdb.com, it says this is a remake of a 2001 charming German movie titled “Mostly Martha.” I’m thinking to see if I can find that to watch.

17 comments:

Betina Krahn said...

Christie, I saw it a week ago and liked it. . . though I agree about the timing of the thing.

I had seen "Mostly Martha," the German made film that is the basis for this one. I loved it-- a lot more gritty and realistic and believable. They "niced" this one up a bit for American audiences. To me, Zeta-Jones was just too pretty to have developed the neuroses the chef in the original one had developed. Here, she was more sympathetic and her treatment of the child was more human. (Those German film-makers can be tough!)

But there was a subplot in the German version about the heroine looking for the child's father and finding him and sending the little girl to live with him-- but not before she has come to love and need the child in her life. Very moving. Without that added dimension, it seemed a bit flat to me.

Good movie, though. A welcome change from the summer brains-on-the-wall action movies.

Christie Ridgway said...

Betina, I'll definitely look for Mostly Martha then. Speaking of Zeta-Jones, I was surprised to find that they didn't make her look =quite= as luminous as she usually does. Of course she's incredibly beautiful, but in the close-ups her skin looked like real person flesh and not something created in heaven just for her. It made it feel a bit more real to me.

Playground Monitor said...

Haven't seen this but I'd like too. Since getting the DH to have a root canal is easier than getting him to see a romantic comedy, I'll probably wait for the DVD version.

I remember when I watched "Sweet Home Alabama" I felt like poor Patrick Dempsey got the short end of the stick and he'd done nothing wrong. When I saw the DVD version with deleted scenes, I learned they'd cut a scene where he was having an affair with one of Reese's models. AHA! That would have made him look like a slug and strengthened the conflict.

I waited tables at Shoney's one summer during college. The DH knows we'll starve before I work around food again.

Marilyn

Christie Ridgway said...

Marilyn: Hah! I didn't know that about Sweet Home Alabama. That makes a lot of sense--I just thought he lost out on Reese because his mother was so impossible which is not as believable as the affair.

I'm with you on the waiting tables. However, I'm very good at balancing plates and Surfer Guy can mix up a mean (strong!) cocktail.

Debra Dixon said...

Christie-- Thank you for the review! I was debating whether I should drag the DH to it and you've settled that for me. He's a good fellow to play along when I want to see a romantic movie but I hate to take him unless it's a great representative of the form. I had problems with Catherine Zita Jones as the lead in the trailers. Just didn't feel right but the concept was one that seemed like a story I would want to see.

Michele Hauf said...

I don't plan to see this movie, but did see Music & Lyrics and yeah, there was just something 'off' in that movie. I think it's very hard to do a romance on-screen, because a lot of screenwriters go into it thinking it's a 'relationship' movie and not the dreaded 'romance', when they should not be afraid to admit right up front that it is a romance. Does that make sense?

I need my romances on a bigger scale, like the current Stardust (which I hope to see next weekend). A man who loves a woman, goes on a quest to find a fallen star to win her love. Sigh... Now that's my kind of movie.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I LOVED "Mostly Martha" and want to see "No Reservations" mainly for CZ-J (who reminds me of my daughter). But I guess I'll wait for the dvd. Thanks, Christie! It's always a consideration--big screen for this one or dvd? Good to have that settled.

We saw "Bourne Ultimatum" last night--definitely big screen. I might blog about it--want to make some comparisons.

As for Romantic Comedy, I saw the Spencer Tracy biography on Bio Channel recently--highly recommend it. Kathrine Hepburn was always a favorite of mine, and I've seen her bio, but never Tracy. What an interesting combo. The chemistry in their movies is unique. She was always just a little bit smarter, and he knew it. But he was secure in his masulinity, so he enjoyed her to pieces. Great match!

Helen Brenna said...

DVD, it is. Thanks Christie.

Something interesting, though, are the directors other credits. What an interesting mix of movies!

Christie Ridgway said...

I want to see Bourne Ultimatum! We almost saw it but Surfer Guy suggested No Reservations (he actually likes chick flicks, bless him).

Okay, for those who I've persuaded to wait...the kitchen scenes did make both the dh and I want to go home and cook. Surfer Guy said he wanted to make me a nice meal! So it might be worth the big screen just for that...

Susan Kay Law said...

Michele, we went to Stardust on Sunday. I really loved it. Three out of the four of us did; the dh thought it was slow. Son #2 kept whispering . . . SWEET. Son #3 said: Mom, my stomach is all upset because I'm so worried about them all!

Me, I think the dh's disappointment mostly stems from the fact that Michelle Pheifer only looks her glorious self for a moment or two.

You should go.

Susie

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm putting Stardust on our list, Susie. The boys liked it? That's good to know.

Barbara Samuel said...

I'll be the dissenting vote here: I saved No Reservations as a treat and genuinely enjoyed it. Certainly not as edgy as Mostly Martha, which is a better movie, but also very good. I loved the guy and ZJ is so beautiful I just enjoy watching her.

I'm also passionate about food and restaurant stories, so that may have colored my pleasure.

On the other hand, despite my adoration of Hugh Grant, Music and Lyrics was just bloody awful.

Christie Ridgway said...

Z-J blew my mind, beauty wise, in Zorro. Man. Of course, Antonio also made my heart stop!

I haven't asked you about No Reservatons, Barbara. I'm glad you liked it. I'm admittedly picky on these kind of movies...and I did live the cooking stuff.

Samantha Hunter said...

I haven't seen it, but what drives me CRAZY is that this is the title of the Blaze anthology story I just finished, and I'd pitched it before this movie came out, grrrr! LOL Editorial loved the title, but the book doesn't come out until next year, and now everyone will associate it with the movie -- though my book has nothing to do with food or cooking. I love light romantic comedies, though, so I'll probably enjoy this...if I can get past them hijacking my title. ;)

Sam

Betina Krahn said...

Samantha, you're probably safe with that title. For some reason, unless you're using a title that was a unique blockbuster "Pirates of the Carribean" or anything "Die Hard," people don't necessarily connect the book with a movie title. Unless, of course, the actors from the movie are on the cover.

"No Reservations" is a common enough phrase that I don't think you'll get backlash. Who knows--it might even help sales!

MaryF said...

I haven't seen this one, but I did see Music and Lyrics, and...where was the conflict? It was cute, Hugh was cute, but.....

Smarty Pants said...

I find I end up leaving most romantic comedies let down. This one was cute, but that was about it. The Lake House had something off about it, aside from being completely plot transparent. The Holiday made me want to pull my hair out. Its as though the writers said, "well, we don't have a happy ending, so lets just ignore that fact and have the characters dance around in denial until the credits start to roll and maybe the audience will forget that we totally screwed up the plotline with Jude Law."

I think writing romance has made me completely disagreeable and hard to please.