What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this romantic comedy has some serious themes, like the death of a single parent and an aunt who must care for her orphaned niece. Although it's rated PG and stars popular child actress Abigail Breslin, the film's protagonist, an emotionally withdrawn chef who doesn't have any healthy relationships, is not going to seem compelling to most kids. The dramedy also perpetuates the idea that ambitious, professionally successful women all have lonely personal lives. Still, at its heart, this is the typical odd-couple romantic movie with a little girl thrown in to stir the pot.
What's the story?
In NO RESERVATIONS, type-A chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is all business and the talk of Manhattan. But at home, Kate's a mess. Her sister unexpectedly dies, and suddenly Kate's the guardian of her young niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin). Kate's so clueless she tries to feed Zoe a whole steamed fish -- whole fish, with head and milky eye intact -- instead of the fish sticks the girl would prefer. But soon enough Nick (Aaron Eckhart), with his Italian flair for cranking up arias and making the kitchen staff sing along, wins over Zoe with a plate of good ole spaghetti marinara. With Zoe playing Cupid, she hooks her aunt up, and the odd-couple chefs start rubbing off on each other -- he becomes more ambitious and she more laid back.
Is it any good?
There's romance in but not the kind you would expect from a Hollywood romantic comedy. The emotional connection between Kate and the cuisine she artfully creates is entertaining and satisfying. But Kate's slow-but-predictable relationship with the restaurant's carefree new sous chef Nick is less exciting than watching the many close-ups of haute cuisine. These may be attractive Hollywood actors, but they lack convincing chemistry.
Although director Scott Hicks couldn't coax a magical spark out of his leads, he does a fine job of showing how food, especially beautifully prepared food, can be a sensuous delight. And while the movie's lesson -- about letting your hair down once in a while to go with the flow -- is trite, it's also familiar and sweet.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the difference between personal and professional success. How was Kate successful in one way but not the other? What did her kitchen employees think of her, and how did they react to Nick's work style? What did Zoe and Kate learn from each other?