No Reservations is a sad and sweet story about losing what you knew you had and finding what you didn’t know was lost. No Reservations isn’t an emotionally challenging or taxing movie, but it doesn’t lack resonance either. It is delightfully charming.
Kate Armstrong’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) sister is killed in a car accident on the way to visit. Also in the car is her daughter, Zoe (Abigail Breslin). Zoe survives the accident, but is left without parents. Kate hesitantly assumes responsibility for Zoe. While Kate is out on bereavement leave from her job as executive chef, her boss fills the temporary sous chef position with the opposite side of the coin Nick. Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is the target for all of Kate’s angst at first. Slowly, though, their relationship becomes more complex. He even gets Zoe to eat, a feat Kate couldn’t seem to accomplish. Nick finds small, thoughtful ways to help both Kate and Zoe out of their grief. The story all takes place around piles of delicious looking food!
The plot is less a linear day-to-day account, but rather feels more like the audience is checking in from time to time on the family. Most of the time the time elapse isn’t an issue but occasionally it feels herky-jerky and incomplete. The writing is the weakest part of the movie, which is a shame considering the quality of acting in No Reservations.
Kate is a relentless control freak who loves her job as a chef. That is, until Zoe comes to live with her. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a lovely anal-retentive stuffy-person. She is even better when she lusts over someone she loathes and is turned upside down by Zoe. I could best describe her as a controlled crazy person.
Abigail Breslin’s performance in No Reservations proves that Breslin’s talent isn’t limited by her age. If her performance were a dance, she’d be a twinkle-toed dream. Her role is the most emotionally complex in No Reservations. She has to portray a girl who has lost her mother and her home, and yet still attempts to be a well rounded child. Breslin gives a realistic complexity to Zoe. When she is yelling at Kate, you find her tragic, you feel a weight in your heart, but you never think, “Brat!” Her performance is especially endearing when she is interacting with Aaron Eckhart.
Aaron Eckhart is smooch-worthy as Nick. He is delightful, tender, and sweet. When he sings to cheer up the kitchen, I want to dance around in his arms. When he sings or nurtures Zoe I just want to jump into his arms and leave myself to his mercy. There is a great deal of drama in the movie, but every time Aaron Eckhart enters a scene, you feel a wave of warm relief because he makes you feel like, no matter the problem, it will all be alright. After seeing No Reservations, if I ever have the opportunity to interview Eckhart, I’ll skip the questions and write about the quality of his hugs. I admit, I was feeling a little jealous of Zeta-Jones.
Even though Zeta-Jones and Eckhart have good chemistry through most of the movie, they are trouble when it comes to physical contact. Their kissing, in one particular scene, reminded me of the bumbling of my junior high kissing experiences. It seemed to be less a submission to passion and more a bet by the director to embarrass the actors. They can’t seem to make direct lip contact or share any slobber. I know kissing someone new could be awkward but it isn’t coupled with climactic orgasma-music the directors threw in the scene. One bad kissing scene didn’t ruin the romance for me and I was surprisingly touched by Kate and Nick’s relationship.
No Reservations may come across as a chick flick, but most guys will find No Reservations just as enjoyable as the ladies in their lives. So if you choose this movie for a date night, you’ll get to see a great movie and earn major brownie points with your lady. It’s chess master level date strategy!
No Reservations can be summed up with one word: charming.