Monday, July 23, 2007

Cheese Fondue

Tonight I saw No Reservations, the corny, culinary-themed romantic comedy you knew Hollywood would inevitably make, now that Rachael Ray has home cooks across the country throwing around terms like "evoo" and "eyeball it." The movie, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart and Little Miss Sunshine cutie Abigail Breslin, is a fondue of a film. It is very cheesy. Fun, in theory. And family friendly. But kind of stomachache-inducing.

I'll spare you the plot details; suffice it to say that Zeta-Jones and Eckhart flirt their brains out in the kitchen, her as a workaholic perfectionist chef and him as a lovable goofball who blares Puccini. They bicker in the walk-in freezer and finally make up, thanks in large part to adorable Breslin, who naturally brings them together over their love of pizza and pancakes. Cliche-ridden formula aside, No Reservations did have some bright spots: its food footage is excellent and the close-up of Zeta-Jones blow-torching a creme brulee did make me nostalgic for my days as a dessert prep cook at a French restaurant in college. The frequent kitchen montages are fun--if anything, they'll make your stomach growl.

But I'm sure I won't be the only one with some quibbles. Breslin struts around the kitchen with her long hair flying in the breeze. Bet the Health Dept. would love that! Zeta-Jones's signature dish is scallops in a saffron sauce? Hardly groundbreaking. On the movie's web site, director Scott Hicks says "I always strive for realism." But he still filmed the early morning fish market scenes at the Fulton Fish Market (you can see the Brooklyn Bridge in the background), when the market relocated to the Bronx two years ago. And is it realistic for a Manhattan chef to drive around in a pickup truck, as Eckhart's character does?

No Reservations is a remake of the 2001 German film Mostly Martha. I have a feeling the original is far superior. I'll Netflix it and watch it while noshing on some fondue, as a reminder that cheese is better eaten than viewed on the big screen.--S

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