In No Reservations, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Kate, a hard-headed, controlling chef who refuses to let people into her heart. Going into the screening for No Reservations, I felt a little bit like Kate — prematurely wary that this movie would leave me feeling burned, so to speak. To my astonishment, it wormed its way into my heart by the end, gentle and sweet as a raspberry sorbet.
The sentimental drama (which is a remake of the German film Mostly Martha) begins with Kate talking to her therapist — about food. She's been ordered to see a therapist by her boss, the no-nonsense (but exceedingly accommodating with customers) restaurant manager Paula (Patricia Clarkson). As the story unfolds, we sporadically attend therapy along with Kate, who gradually opens up to her therapist. Structuring the story around these visits is a seemingly simplistic device that works exceptionally well to make the audience feel safe and satisfied. This way, there's a definite progression we can make with Kate as she begins to trust her therapist — along with herself. Yet therapy isn't the only aspect to this movie, so
Early in the movie Kate's sister Christine dies suddenly and Kate's niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin, who is so honest and adorable it just breaks your heart in half) is left in her care. Meanwhile, to Kate's deep dismay, a handsome new sous chef named Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is hired at the restaurant. Yet before long, Nick's infectious joie de vivre takes hold of everyone — even little Zoe, who seems to blossom in his presence.
As the story continues, Kate's icy resolve starts to melt, but the predictable trap of characters too easily changing to resolve the story's conflicts doesn't ensnare these characters, refreshingly. Kate, while tender and more patient in the end, is still Kate and still has a lot to learn about Zoe and about being a parent. Aaron Eckhart is ridiculously endearing as Nick, his character a little on the one-dimensional side, but down-to-earth enough to leave viewers wholeheartedly rooting for him to succeed with Kate.
With the exception of some montages full of contrived "bonding" images (Nick, Kate and Zoe riding a three-seater bike, for starters), the tender relationship between a grieving child and her overwhelmed aunt resounds with surprising truthfulness. Every trite, overused moment or line is tempered by the honesty of their relationship. I had plenty of reservations about this movie from watching the misleading trailer, but now that I've seen it, take my advice and don't hold back from seeing No Reservations. And if you're hungry afterward, Yum can show you how to make Kate's famous scallops with saffron sauce.