Last night I attended an advance screening for the movie “No Reservations”. I thought I’d chime in on how I felt the movie was. First off, I didn’t intend to see it after first seeing the trailer a month or two ago. It looked like another typical Hollywood romance. Guess what? I was right.
I rated the movie with 6 stars out of 10. It’s just not a good movie, and on many levels. The plot is that the main character’s sister dies in a car accident. Her daughter is left in the care of the main character, named Kate. What could have been a great story focused on the relationship between the girl and Kate, instead the story is a bit convoluted to whom the focus is on. One minute we meet her divorced neighbor Sean, the next minute we’re having a conversation with Kate’s boss, the next minute a new eccentric chef is singing opera. While these characters could have achieved a lot with a script that focused on them, instead the script dwindles to a point where we have a lot of tiny plot movements and tiny character moments that all lead to what many will perceive as a cute ending, but to me is utterly disappointing.
I’m big on character development. While we do get a lot of moments here and there, they amount to nothing in the end. All these moments add up to make the characters shine at that moment, rather than have those actually build the characters into ones we can walk away knowing when the film’s over. So, in a sense, I was enjoying these moments while watching the film. But, I had an expectation of these moments to lead to somewhere much greater. That never came. Many would argue that it’s just a simple film anyway, but nevertheless, we deserve to know a little more about these characters. Had it done that, I coud at least walk away giving it a thumbs-up.
Amidst the two main characters are a bunch of other characters that only lend themselves to the moment rather than the film as a whole. As such, I saw no major reason to include the moments of Kate and Sean, seeing as their conversations don’t reveal much in Kate and don’t even matter for Sean. We also follow a fellow woman chef slightly with her pregnancy. She talks about it for a little bit and then her water breaks, but that moment just passes by. Now, in each of these seemingly meaningless moments, a tiny plot movement is snuck in. For example, after talking to Sean, we see her at her therapist’s office talking about she hasn’t had a relationship in a while. It’s all talk-that leads to nothing. Or when the woman’s water breaks, Kate is late for picking up the girl (played by Abigail Breslin, by the way). That leads the girl, named Zoe, to get a little angry. But that’s it.
The movie then tries to build something with the title characters, Kate and Nick. Nick, as I mentioned earlier, is eccentric, and maybe a bit over-the-top. Through the movie we see his motives are his ambitions, similar to that of Kate. Maybe that’s why their relationship should work. Does it work out? I won’t spoil the ending, though I think you can guess it, anyway. And even the moment of finding out about how these two characters end up leaves you wondering why it was that way. It leaves you wondering because there seems to be no merit for the way things turn out. Their relationship always seemed more forced because of the fact that they both work in the same place. In fact, looking back, a lot of the little moments that might make you feel good, or cry (whatever the case) are more forced; it’s more or less to say that the movie had said moments.
In the end, I don’t think it works. Despite some sad and funny parts, the movie leads us down a path that is about as simple as the premise. I was ready for something a little bit better. Filmmakers have had many examples from which to pull their ideas. It’s about time they started using them. This movie was based on a novel titled “Mostly Martha”. Possibly, the filmmakers wanted a 1 hour and 40-minute run time and omitted some really great writing. Perhaps the book delved more into the neighbor, or more into the pregnant chef. Perhaps the director thought he could get by with just momentary scenes. That works in some cases, where these moments are tied around a complex plot. However, the simplicity here just doesn’t work.
A good chef knows the best recipes are the ones that are so complex that it takes a bit of a ‘taste’ to appreciate it. It’s obvious that this movie didn’t want to take chances. It settles for less, and I feel it’s because of the nature of these type of films. They’re just placed for a little summer flair. While it could have been something grand, we find that we’re left a little hungry. I’m hungry for more character development and hungry because after seeing such great food, I couldn’t wait to go out and fire something up for myself. Thing is, when I cook something, I make it good for everyone, not just a select group of people. Still, I must admit that I would recommend it for those looking for a cute movie. If you can focus on the cuteness rather than what should be going on, and also ignore the lackluster ending, then you might be okay with this flick.