Catherine Zeta-Jones does a fine job starring as Kate, a tightly wound, career-obsessed New Yorker (in this case, a “top chef” at some swishy West Village restaurant) whose life is destined for a much-needed shaking up. In movies like this, the catalyst for the main character’s unraveling is typically: a) the saddling of said character with a small child; b) the appearance of a whacky-but-gorgeous love interest who takes it upon himself to doggedly pursue the neurotic and bitchy protagonist. No Reservations utilizes both devices, throwing it all together like a mish mash stew made from a week’s accumulated leftovers. The uncannily adorable and precocious Zoe (Abigail Breslin) comes to live with Kate after her mother, Kate’s sister, perishes in a car accident. Kate stoically returns to work the very next day, only to find a boisterous new hire, Nick (Aaron Eckhart) yukking it up with her kitchen staff. Kate is livid, but Nick placates her by explaining that it was his admiration for her cooking skills that led him to seek a job as her assistant. From there, everything unfolds precisely as expected, with Zoe and Nick flitting like little flames round Kate’s cold, cold heart.
As romantic comedies go, No Reservations isn’t terribly hard to stomach; the troubling part is that this film is actually a remake of a German film, Mostly Martha, which came out a mere five years ago. The uniformly good acting and slick production values of No Reservations only serves to emphasize the wasteful and unimaginative climate of Hollywood filmmaking, which prefers wholesale reiteration of a successful formula to striking out on uncharted territory — what with its correspondingly uncertain profit margin.