Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson
Released: July 27, 2007
Viewed in theaters: August 4, 2007
I haven't seen this movie since the theaters, so the only thing I really remembered was the rivalry between chefs Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Nick (Aaron Eckhart), although the rivalry seemed to be one-sided, and that they fall in love. (But even if I had never seen the movie, I could tell you that was going to happen). I had completely forgotten that Abigail Breslin was in this and plays Kate's niece, Zoe, who she takes in after Zoe's mom, Kate's sister, unexpectedly dies in a car accident. This is the second movie Abigail Breslin has been in where she plays a young kid who loses her parents in a car accident (her dad is out of the picture in this movie) and has to be raised by her aunt. She was also in Raising Helen where that happens and she and her two other siblings have to be raised by Kate Hudson. At least in this movie, she's an only child and CZJ is older and more mature and makes a steady income as a chef. (Although didn't Kate Hudson have some fabulous job working at a fashion magazine in NYC...God, that movie was so f**king stupid!)
When we first meet Kate, she's been seeing a therapist. She tells him her boss makes her see him and hasn't the "faintest idea why" she needs to see a therapist, but it's soon clear to the viewer why she may need to see one. She is the head chef at a trendy Manhattan restaurant called Bleeker 22. Her job is her life and she takes it seriously. She is very focused on her job and wants everything to be perfect, so she usually ends up doing everything herself, coordinating all the dishes so they're perfect. I have to say, watching this made me super hungry! There are some delicious looking dishes in this, especially that pasta dish that Nick makes for Zoe. The desserts look mouth-watering too, although they also look much too gorgeous to ruin! If I had to choose my favorite movie that revolves around food, it would be Chef.
Kate hates leaving the kitchen, even to talk to customers who love her food and want to compliment her, but her boss, the owner of the restaurant, Paula (Patricia Clarkson) makes her go out to the dining room to talk to her admirers. However, she does not take well to any criticism and we see an example of this when a customer tells her that his foie gras isn't cooked properly. This is a dish that Kate has cooked probably well over a hundred times in her life and she knows it's properly cooked. She even tells him exactly how she cooked it. The guy tells her he's going to go somewhere else and she insults his intelligence by telling him there's a hot dog stand down the street. Her boss, who witnessed the whole thing, tells her that if she wasn't one of the best chefs in the city, she would have fired her a long time ago because apparently this wasn't the first time Kate had gotten into an argument with a customer. Paula tells her she needs to remember that "the customer is always right." Whoever came up with that motto needs to be bitch-slapped, because, you know what? The customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer needs a giant dose of reality like this guy did.
Kate is expecting her sister and her niece, Zoe, to arrive for a visit, but on the way, they get into a car accident and Kate's sister dies. Kate goes to visit Zoe in the hospital and tells her that her mother is dead, although Zoe already knew that. Kate goes back to work the next day, surprising everyone because they thought she was going to take a few days off. When Paula catches Kate crying in the cooler, she orders Kate to take a week off. It does make sense that Kate would want to go back to work after a tragic event because work is her life and it's something she can focus on and not think about her sister's death. I would imagine if you took a week off after someone close to you died, it's all you would think about and you would almost want something to distract you. However, Kate doesn't have much time to be distracted by her sister's death because she's now the sole guardian of Zoe (something she knew about since Zoe was born as we see in a letter she reads from her sister..unlike Kate Hudson in Raising Helen who had no idea she would be the guardian of her sister's kids). Although, I feel like if your dead sister's daughter was living with you and you were now raising her, then all you would think about was your dead sister. Everyday when you woke up and fed your niece breakfast, you would think, Oh, yeah, my niece lives with me because my sister is dead. Or when you take your niece to her first day of school, you would think, I have to take my niece to school because my sister is dead. Geeze, this got really depressing. Not to mention that Kate is reminded of her sister every time Zoe brings out a photo book of her and her mom.
I have no idea where Zoe and her mom were from; I'm guessing upstate. Or maybe New Jersey or Connecticut. It was in driving distance of Manhattan, at least. Zoe has to start at a new school and has to wake up Kate so they're not late. The school starts at, get this, nine o'clock. NINE O'CLOCK!!! Is this a real thing? Do schools actually start at 9:00 in Manhattan and if so why couldn't I have grown up in Manhattan and gone to a school that starts at nine, rather than eight? Surprisingly, even though their school doesn't even start super early (and anyone who says that nine am is early needs to STFU right now!) they are still late because Kate sleeps in. (I can't really blame her because most morning she wakes up super early to go to a fish market). Despite that, they probably would have made it on time, but Zoe insists she can't leave without her scarf, even though Kate tells her she can borrow one of hers and they'll look for it later. Zoe needs to have her scarf, not just any scarf, but a certain one. So while Kate is going through her boxes, Zoe is just sitting there, watching her. This kid is, what? Eight, nine, ten years old? She is old enough to help her aunt look for the damn scarf!
When Kate goes to the restaurant during her required week off to check on things, she discovers that Paula has hired a new chef, Nick, who is trained in Italian cooking. He is very different from the no-nonsense Kate who keeps order in her kitchen. He's joking around and singing Italian opera music, telling the other cooks to join in with him and everyone is smiling and having a good time. This infuriates Kate because she thinks Nick is trying to steal her place. Like I mentioned earlier, this rivalry is one-sided because Nick has no intention of doing that and just wants to work with a great chef like Kate. He even tells her that he'll leave unless she tells him to stay. Paula pleads with her to get along with Nick and Kate grudgingly tells Nick that he can stay.
Even though (probably moments before she died) Kate's sister told her that Zoe "eats anything, she's a vacuum cleaner", Kate finds that not to be true. Zoe doesn't seem to have much of an appetite. It probably doesn't help that she just recently lost her mother at such a young age, but it also probably doesn't help that Kate would do horribly if she were on Top Chef and the challenge was to feed a group of school children. She makes Zoe a fish dinner where the entire fish still intact, head and all. I'm not sure I would want to eat something that was staring back at me. Even though I like fish, that dish didn't look appealing to me, so I can't blame Zoe asking to be excused.
Kate brings Zoe to work with her where she just hangs around, out of the way, while the other chefs work. This is when Nick makes the aforementioned pasta dish which she gobbles up. Zoe is often brought to the restaurant where she ends up helping with peeling vegetables or whatnot. At one point, when Kate is away from the station, Zoe takes a whiff of one of the two truffles laying on the cutting board and throws them both away. Luckily, the garbage is only full of vegetable peels, so Kate is able to fish them out and use them since there weren't any used Kleenex or anything really disgusting in there. I've never had truffles in my life (it's possible I've had truffle oil, but I know it's nowhere near the same thing!), but I know they're super expensive. When Kate is dealing with the truffle seller (who is obviously selling them illegally because during the scene, another cook, who is pregnant, starts to go into labor and when Kate tells him to dial 911, he says, "No police!") he tells her the white truffles are $2200 a pound!
When Zoe is working in the kitchen, all I can think of is, there's got to be some child labor law that wouldn't allow that. Sure enough, in a later scene, Zoe's principal asks to speak to Kate and tells her that Zoe often falls asleep in class and has told her friends she's working late hours at the restaurant. The principal tells Kate that she's going to have to stop this, otherwise she's going to have to call Child Protective Services. Kate promises it won't happen again, but when she tells Zoe, Zoe gets angry and says she likes working in the kitchen, but we learn she's really upset because she misses her mother.
Things go south when Paula offers Nick Kate's job. Kate thinks this is what he wanted all along. Nick tells her he didn't accept the position, but it's too late and the damage is done. He has quit working at the restaurant and they have broken up. When Zoe goes missing and isn't at home or school or the restaurant, Kate asks for Nick's help to find her, which they do at her mother's grave. (I'm not even going to get into the logistics of how Zoe even got to the cemetery...I'm presuming her mother is buried in her hometown, wherever that is. Did Zoe steal money from her aunt and take a bus there? Did she hitchhike there?) Nick and Kate have a heart to heart and she apologizes to him, but he tells her he wants to thank her for going after what he wants and has gotten a job as an executive chef in San Francisco. Kate congratulates him, but you can tell she's not thrilled about this news.
After Kate quits her job (she quits before she can get fired because after sending out two steaks that aren't rare enough for a picky customer, she takes out an uncooked stead and slams it on his table, asking, "Rare enough?"), she goes to Nick's apartment and tells him she doesn't want him to go to San Francisco. In the end, they open up their own bistro that is brimming with customers. In an earlier scene, where they were all cooking together, they said they would have a restaurant named Kate and Nick and Zoe's. This is what they name the bistro. Terrible name. First of all, who wants to say, "Hey, let's go to Kate and Nick and Zoe's for lunch"? No one. Way too long. It's a ridiculous name for a restaurant. The logo of the restaurant is very confusing. It's an upside down triangle that says Bistro in the middle and on each of the three sides it has the three names. Zoe's the only one that is in possessive form. The triangle moves, so you can have any name at the top, while the other two names are on the sides. We see Zoe fix the triangle so it has her name on top and it says "Zoe's Bistro" and not "Kate Bistro" or "Nick Bistro" which just sounds weird. Why didn't they just name the damn bistro "Zoe's Bistro" and just be done with it? I bet you they dropped the "Kate and Nick" and just called it that. Their customers are able to see them from the kitchen and they all applaud when Kate and Nick kiss. Uh...I feel like in real life, most customers would not want the cooks doing that while they're preparing their food!
I like the clever double meaning of the title, even if they did take reservations at Bleeker 22, so the "No Reservations" doesn't work for that. Kate used to have reservations about dating/being in a relationship, but that changes once she meets and gets to know Nick. We know this because her therapist asks her how long it's been since her last relationship and she tells him it was three or four years ago. There's also a seemingly nice and decent-looking divorced man named Sean who lives in her building and has asked her out a few times, only to be turned down. She tells him she doesn't date people from her building, which is actually a good enough reason, but shouldn't that same rule apply to people she works with? I think dating people you work with is worse than dating people you live in the same building with because it would be harder to avoid them at work if the relationship didn't work out. I did feel a little bad for Sean when he sees Kate and Nick get back from a date.
Despite the tragic subplot, it's a cute movie with delicious-looking food and lots of popular Italian music. Sure, it's predictable because you know the main characters are going to end up together even after they have a fight and break up, but would you really want it any other way?
Since Bleeker 22 is a trendy restaurant in Manhattan, I thought I would tell you about the trendy restaurant I ate at the one time I visited Manhattan with my mom, my friend, and her mom. We usually ate at the hotel's restaurant or Seinfeld-esque diners, but on our last night we ate at a very nice Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. The menu was very interesting and the meal was served in courses - some of them were only a bite, literally! The first thing was a little square of raw salmon arctic. Next we had barely cooked tuna with a little dot of beet sauce served on a glass tile. We were then served bread and I had Swedish dry bread. The next course was the first course aka the appetizer. I had the lobster roll with a yogurt base dotted with salmon roe eggs, which looked like orange tapioca. It came with a shot of ginger ale mixed with vodka. My next course, the main course, was the seafood stew. Its was covered in a dill sauce with a piece of lobster, tuna, salmon, scallion, and thin slices of cucumber and potato. Before we got dessert, we were served a tiny sorbet to cleanse our palate. It was butter cream and Japanese lemon with bits of chopped up citrus fruit. For dessert, I ordered the arctic circle which was goat cheese parfait with a lemon filling in the middle topped with a blueberry sauce and chocolate on the side. The very last thing we had were petite fours; there was coconut marshmallow, chocolate-covered fava beans, and a cranberry jelly square. I know some of these things sound questionable, but I promise, everything was absolutely delicious and it was the most sophisticated restaurant I've ever been to in my life! No idea how much the bill cost!