It may be a three-star movie about a four-star chef, but it is still a sweet summer treat and a great date night hors d’oeuvre.
Kate (Catherine Zeta Jones) just does not understand what everyone’s problem is. All she wants is to have every single detail in her kitchen meet her uncompromising standards. And for every single detail in her life to be as easy for her as coming up with an exquisite new recipe to enchant her foodie groupies. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently, it is, because the owner of the restaurant where Kate presides (one could never say “is employed”) has insisted that she get therapy if she would like to continue to preside. It is not good for business if Kate insults customers who fail to appreciate the subtle flavors and delicate complexities and just want undercooked steak. So, Kate goes to therapy, where she recounts the details of her food preparation in terms so swoonably delectable that for a moment both patient and therapist get a glimpse of a perfectible world. But that would mean a world in which we could be in control. And Kate is reminded of just how little control she has when her adored sister is killed in an automobile accident, leaving Kate as guardian for her young niece, Zoe (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin).
Zoe is not as easy to understand or influence as a recipe. Kate does the best she can, making her most delectable treats. But Zoe will not eat. And at the restaurant, the owner brings in a chef to provide back-up, a man who has the effrontery to be (1) a specialist in Italian cooking, (2) easy-going, likeable, and handsome, (3) a fan of Kate’s work, and, worst of all, (4) a very, very good cook. His first satisfied customer is Zoe, who happily eats a bowl of pasta. And thus begins the two steps forward-one step back dance of gently melting Kate’s resistance like Baker’s chocolate in a double-boiler with an all-copper bottom. It’s as predictably sugary as next year’s winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, but it is good, old-fashioned Hollywood gloss with smooth and winning portrayals from its three leads, a sweet soundtrack by Philip Glass that adds in some entrancing standards, and food so lusciously photographed that Zeta Jones may just be the second most beautiful sight onscreen.
Parents should know that the movie has a sad (off-screen) death, some mild language and brief sexual references and non-explicit situations.
Families who see this film should talk about why was it so hard for Kate to compromise. What is it about cooking that made it so important to her? What were the most important things she learned from Nick and Zoe? What is the double meaning of the title? Families should try to create some recipes and imagine menus and names for their own dream restaurants.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy other foodie movies, including “Ratatouille,” Simply Irresistible (rated PG-13), Babette’s Feast, and the original German film that inspired this one, Mostly Martha.