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No Reservations

Food for Relationships: Forming and Healing

by Sofia Soto Sugar

No Reservations - Kate and Zoe sit far apart, exchanging a stare after Kate serves her an elaborate fish meal.
Kate and Zoe sit far apart, exchanging a stare after Kate serves her an elaborate fish meal.

In No Reservations (2007), director Scott Hicks uses food, appetite, and spacing, among other things, to depict a growing fondness and relationship between the main characters – Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Zoe (Abigail Breslin), and Nick (Aaron Eckhart). The film begins with a long shot of Kate through the window of her therapist’s office, showing the emotional disconnect that Kate maintains, a level of distance from everyone – the audience included. Kate’s life is thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire when her sister is killed in a car accident and she is then left with full custody of her 8-year-old niece, Zoe. Despite being called one of the best chefs in New York City, Kate can’t get Zoe to eat. The strain in their relationship can be seen in the picture above, where Kate has just served Zoe dinner for the first time – an elaborate, not kid-friendly, full body fish with its eyes staring right back at Zoe. The mis-en-scène reflects their relationship as well: they are very distant from each other (both physically and emotionally), and seem stiff in Kate’s cold and professionally equipped kitchen. Following suggestions from her very pregnant sous-chef and her therapist, Kate tries again with some bland looking fish sticks after Zoe’s first day of school: to no avail.

Bernadette, the restaurant owner and Kate’s boss, hires a new sous-chef, Nick, to help the kitchen while Kate is adjusting to life with Zoe, and he proves to be Kate’s complete opposite. Light-hearted and goofy where Kate is permanently steely and straightforward, Kate’s relationship with Nick is tense as well. The audience is introduced to him from behind as he is gesturing exaggeratedly to the opera playing in the kitchen, seemingly catching him off guard. Kate grows to accept him after he finally gets Zoe to eat some of his fresh spaghetti in a scene full of subtle coercion, with shots taken from the other side of shelves and counters as if we, the audience, are spying on a private moment. After this, Zoe develops an appreciation for Nick and encourages, if not forces, his relationship with Kate by inviting him over to cook. This shows the biggest change in the film with a softening of Kate’s character and a new closeness physically exhibited by the characters.

The film, towards the end, begins to exhibit more harmony both in Kate’s professional relationship with Nick and her personal relationship with Zoe. Kate and Zoe, as seen in the picture below, no longer exhibit physical distance and spend a lot more time together having fun. At the end of the film, Kate and Nick are sharing their work space and, instead of bumping into each other, they have it systematically split down the middle in their shared restaurant. The shot of the restaurant is placed from the perspective of the chef duo in the kitchen, showing one unified view right from the couple in sync. The film ends with a shot through the window, similar to how it started but showing how far the characters have come: instead of a self-centered, lonely, and isolated Kate, it shows a finally happy Zoe changing the rotating “Kate, Nick, and Zoe’s Bistro” sign on their new restaurant.

No Reservations - Kate and Zoe compete with Nick in a rousing post-dinner game of pick up (bread)sticks.
Kate and Zoe compete with Nick in a rousing post-dinner game of pick up (bread)sticks.


Works Cited:

No Reservations. Dir. Scott Hicks. Prod. Kerry Heysen and Sergio Aguero. By Carol Fuchs. Perf. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, and Abigail Breslin. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2007.


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