Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the popular and successful chef at Paula's (Patricia Clarkson) small but busy New York restaurant, entirely dedicated to her job, with no time or headspace (or heartspace) for anyone else. Her single mum sister Leah (Jenny Wade) is about to drive to New York to visit Kate with Leah's 8-year old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin); but when a tragic accident leaves Zoe without a mother, Kate honours her promise to take care of Zoe. And just as Zoe comes into her life, so does Nick (Aaron Eckhart), a flamboyant sous-chef hired by Paula, by whom she feels threatened. She doesn't cope well with either intrusion.
 

3.5
It’s simpler than the original and adds some welcome twists.

The word remake automatically sends shivers up my spine but occasionally a movie does benefit from reinterpretation. So it is with No Reservations, the new version of the 2001 German film Mostly Martha.

Messing with a tried and tested recipe is risky - but what Australian director Scott Hicks and scriptwriter Carol Fuchs serve up is more satisfying than the original.

This time, our chef is the closed-off perfectionist Kate, who rules the kitchen of a well-regarded New York restaurant.

Kate’s world begins to crumble when her sister’s killed and she has to take care of her niece Zoe - a task for which she’s unprepared. Her bereavement opens the way for her boss to hire a new chef to help her in the kitchen – a move Kate sees as a threat.

Although promoted as a romantic comedy, the well-made Mostly Martha was mostly maudlin. No Reservations lightens the mood.

It’s simpler than the original and adds some welcome twists.

Catherine Zeta Jones is terrific in the lead. I loved her recreation of little details, the way she wraps her apron around her like a protective religious garment. What I would’ve liked - and Mostly Martha didn’t provide it either – is some insight into why she became so emotionally isolated in the first place.

Aaron Eckhart’s love interest Nick is a tad overcooked. An actor at his best playing the bastard, he initially tries too hard as a charming eccentric. But when he simmers down, he and Zeta Jones complement each other nicely.

Meanwhile, the heartfelt tone is intact, with Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine herself – affecting as the understandably wounded Zoe.

Crucially, there are more laughs this time around - while Scott Hicks has added sugar to the recipe he mostly avoids treacle.

Cinematic comfort food for a wintry Sunday afternoon, I’m giving this 3 and ½ stars.