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August 3, 2007 / Tony

No Reservations Review

No Reservations is a formulated, slick, and ultimately entertaining romantic comedy.  It is the second film made from the screenplay Mostly Martha.  The first film was made in Germany and, if I remember correctly, was a good film.  The story revolves around an executive chef named Kate who is ordered to attend therapy by her boss to deal with her lack of interpersonal skills and anger management problem.  Despite (or perhaps because of) these character flaws, Kate is an excellent chef and is lauded by many of her customers and reviewers alike. The story gets going when Kate’s sister and niece come to visit.  Before they arrive, however, they are involved in a car accident and Kate’s sister dies.  This causes two events: Kate takes over the guardianship of her niece, Zoe and she needs to take some time off from the restaurant. 

Kate, as you can probably guess, has a rocky time adjusting to her new ward and Zoe likewise has a hard time adjusting to her new life.  The development of their relationship makes up most of the rest of the film.  Predictably enough, they come to love each other deeply in the end. 

While Kate is absent from the restaurant and without her knowledge, the owner hires a new sous chef named Nick.  He is everything Kate is not-warm, engaging, and pleasant to be around.  Immediately, the staff warms to him and eventually, Kate does as well.  By the end of the movie, they are in love. 

What makes this movie enjoyable are all the technical things it does right.  The kitchen is beautifully realized.  Not only is the food gorgeous but the hustle and bustle in a kitchen is also accurately depicted.  The dialogue as well is spot on.  In fact, it is quite like the soundtrack by Phillip Glass, just enough (minimalism) to express the idea fully.  The acting is adequate if not well-done.  Aaron Eckhart (who is excellent in Thank You For Smoking) plays the sensitive rogue particularly well. 

But the film seems to lack any real suspense.  I know I knew the story going in from seeing Mostly Martha but I would find it hard to believe that anyone had any real doubt that all would turn out well for Kate in the end: she would have a loving relationship with her niece and her beau.  Part of that is the genre of film but more so is the way the film dealt with the crisis situations in the film.  Case in point, in what would seem to be the greatest crisis in the movie-Zoe runs away after she thinks there is no way Kate and Nick will repair their fledgling romance-the film offers almost no time to even become concerned about the situation before it is resolved.  All you get are short scenes at the school, Kate’s apartment, and the street in Nick’s truck.  And that sort of thriftiness is what ultimately makes this film less than perfect.  It is too efficient at what it does.  The film tells the story so directly and cleanly that there’s next to no time to enjoy what’s happening at any one time.  Yet, it still manages to entertain and really, you can’t ask romantic comedies of this sort to do much more. 

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