Thursday, August 9, 2007

No Reservations (2007)

One cliche frequently found in the romantic and romantic comedy genres is the somewhat difficult to like protagonist made likable by the likable member of the opposite genre who "rescues" them. As a general rule, you meet the likable one early on.

No Reservations (2007) dares to break this rule. Several minutes are spent introducing Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is cold-hearted, hard to work for, overly driven, with no soft edges...and is thoroughly unlikable. In fact, the only reason audiences can possibly like Kate is because she is played by the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones. Even with mouth drawn in a firm, hard line, yelling at her underlings for some imagined slight or castigating a restaurant customer for having the temerity to express their own taste, Jones is lovely to look at. However, as a character, Kate gives you nothing to like, no reason to pull for her.

She illustrates her cold-heartedness early. She is leaving her room for work when she hears her downstairs neighbor Sean (Brian F. O'Byrne) coming in. She hastily tries to return to her room but he says something to her. After a brief conversation, as she starts back down the stairs he points out that she had forgotten something so sh returns upstairs, opens the door, waits for Sean to enter his own apartment, then shuts the door and continues on her way.

In other words, she wants to avoid him. Yet later when she needs a babysitter she turns to Sean, telling love interest Nick (Aaron Eckhart) how sweet he is. In retrospect, this makes her even more unlikable. Here is a man clearly trying to be friendly and helpful (at one point he leaves Thai food on her doorstep in case she gets hungry) whom she relies on when she needs him but will give nothing, not even a smile.

And this is our heroine.

Meanwhile, we have the potentially touching story of Zoe (Abigail Breslin), Kate's recently orphaned niece who has come to live with Kate. However, a potentially edge-softening tool in Zoe becomes simply a device to continually bring Kate and Nick together. Nick inexplicably falls instantly and completely for Kate despite her mood killing ways at work, harsh attitudes in the kitchen, and all around orneriness.

However, eventually Kate comes to her senses, gives up on the high powered fancy food restaurant life and opens a casual bistro with Nick and Zoe to give you the requisite happy finale.

It sounds like I did like the movie but that is patently not true. It had some very nice moments and, once likable characters such as Nick and, to some extent, the hapless but pointless psychiatrist "Therapist" (Bob Balaban) (and for an example of his pointlessness...he is not even given a name! The movie cut corners with names, giving nobody complete first and last names), it is enjoyable with a few moments designed to pull at the heartstrings.

Additionally, in one of those delicious ironies in life, it is a movie about extremely fancy foods you can watch while crushing a bucket of butter and salt laden popcorn and slurping a soda. Try not to think about it to much...but it really does not make sense to do that.

1 comment:

Alan said...

What no Bourne review?