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Sunday, 9 September 2007

Why is Zoe (Abigail Breslin) smiling? She's smiling because Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is in the kitchen cooking with her. No Reservations is 'about' a lot of things. The fact that Zoe is happy is one of the main ones. But the off-centre tang of the film disguises, like a too-strong sauce, its conservative message.

In Australia, politicians use the word 'family' a lot. At every available opportunity, this word pops up next to other words, in order to capture the centre vote. Moving toward the election (end of year) the frequency with which the word appears is a bit off-putting.

The movie deals with a competitive, professional woman who is given the custody of a niece following the mother's death in a car. This theme survives until the end, yet Zoe's smile is the touchstone of achievement. Zoe likes Nick, the rugged, opera-loving, pickup-driving sous-chef in Kate Armstrong's (Catherine Zeta-Jones) kitchen.

Kate is very proud and capable and will not compromise. She's also very territorial. So when Nick appears and starts to massage the menu, Kate bridles. Paula (Patricia Clarkson) owns 22 Bleecker Street, the restaurant. She likes Nick. Everyone does. But it's not until Zoe smiles that Kate takes notice.

Love is in the air. A little drama when Zoe goes missing one day. The Irish guy downstairs with two boys. The capable nanny. Playing Monopoly (and wanting to win). Director Scott Hicks (Shine) has made a Hollywood movie for the naughties. But the thin veneer of odd-ball eccentricity is transparent. Ordinary, 'family' values are clearly visible through it.

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