No Reservations about Being a Working Mom.

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(*Warning: Spoilers ahead.*)

It’s tough enough trying to figure out what to do about childcare when you’re a working parent who’s had time to plan since your child was but the size of a wee grain of rice. But if working parenthood is suddenly thrust upon you with no warning, trying to figure out what arrangement works best for you and the child can be a nightmare.

That’s the premise of the Catherine Zeta-Jones flick, “No Reservations.” Zeta-Jones plays Kate Armstrong, an accomplished gourmet chef who runs the kitchen in a high-end New York City restaurant. She gets up each morning in the 4 o’clock hour to go to the docks and select fish for the restaurant’s specials. She slugs back home, snoozes for a bit, then returns to the restaurant in the afternoon. And stays until midnight, sometimes later. Now imagine shoe-horning the care of a freshly orphaned 9-year-old girl -- Kate’s niece Zoë (Abigail Breslin) -- into that kind of a schedule, with little to no help from anyone else.

No Reservations” paints a spot-on picture of the harsh realities of trying to find after-school care, as well as evening care (Kate works nights), on the fly. Early in the film, Kate tries, and fails, to find a babysitter for Zoë. She first contacts an agency and requests a babysitter to watch the child after-school and through the night until she comes home from the restaurant. And who shows up at her door just before Kate has to leave? A young babysitter decked out in Goth attire, complete with nose ring, ripped fishnet stockings, black lipstick, a dog collar and attitude. Hours later when Kate returns, not only does she discover that the sitter left cigarette ash-filled plates all over, but she took off well before Kate came home from work. The terrified, grieving little girl who is in a new apartment, all alone, is found hiding under a bed with a flashlight and some stuffed animals.

Not wanting a repeat with another bad sitter, Kate takes Zoë to work the next night, where the sad girl sits in the back of the kitchen. Alone. The first smile she cracks is when new chef Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart) -- hired to cover for a pregnant chef who was about to go on maternity leave -- engages her and gets her to eat a bowl of pasta he made. Gradually, Nick draws Zoë out of her shell. As I watched the evening unfold, I kept thinking that Kate was lucky she was the head chef and that no one minded that Zoë was hanging around and falling asleep over her A-Z Mystery books in Kate’s office. Not everyone would’ve been able to take her kid to work.

Hours later, Kate rises at 4:30 a.m., planning on leaving Zoë sleeping while she goes to the docks. But Zoë wakes up and wants to come along. All is fine until the two oversleep after coming back to the apartment and Zoë is late for school.
scoop
08.11.07

Having been crazy about the original German film on which No Reservations is based, I hadn't planned on seeing the Hollywood version, but this review is making me reconsider that decision.