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No Reservations Reviews

Considering how badly Hollywood remakes of foreign films usually turn out, there's much to be said in favor of Scott Hicks' harmless adaptation of the hit 2002 German romantic drama MOSTLY MARTHA. It's handsomely shot by Stuart Dryburgh and nicely acted, and if it tastes a bit bland, you'll soon forget that, along with just about everything else about it. Control freak Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a top New York City chef who runs her kitchen like she runs her life — with a cast-iron, Teflon-coated grip. In fact, the kitchen of the upscale Greenwich Village restaurant where she serves up her famous quail with truffle sauce is her life: Kate lives by so many self-made rules and regulations — recipes, if you will — that she's conveniently precluded from having any kind of social life whatsoever. Kate never dates and doesn't appear to have any friends; her closest meaningful relationship is with the therapist (Bob Balaban) that her boss, restaurant owner Paula (Patricia Clarkson), insisted Kate see. But the already temperamental Kate begins to lose her grip when her sister (Arija Bareikis) is killed in a car accident, and she is faced with the unexpected prospect of raising her young niece, Zoe (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE's Abigail Breslin), on her own. Making things worse, Kate returns to work after a short time off to find that her temporary replacement, easygoing, opera-loving chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart), has taken over her kitchen. Nick is thrilled to be working with the famous Kate Armstrong and happy to serve as her sous-chef, but Kate regards his mere presence as an irritating intrusion and a challenge to her authority. Their individual approaches to cooking — and life — couldn't be more different, so it's needless to point out that they're also hugely attracted to each other. It's nice to see Zeta-Jones in something a little more low-key than a ZORRO movie, and there's some solid romantic chemistry between her and Eckhart. But Hicks and screenwriter Carol Fuchs (who based her script on Sandra Nettelbeck's MOSTLY MARTHA screenplay) skimp on an equally interesting relationship: the one between Kate and her boss, Paula, a businesswoman whose success in the cutthroat world of Manhattan haute cuisine depends largely on her difficult star chef. Such undercooking accounts for a lot of the film's forgettable flavor and is the main reason you'll feel hungry again an hour after leaving the theater.