Catherine Zeta-Jones is the perfect Kate, an egotistical chef in a psychotherapy that her boss (Patricia Clarkson, wonderful) has insisted on. This happens more often than you'd think in real life, usually for anger management.
Aaron Eckhart is Nick, the perfect guy, you can look at him all day and you do. He has perfect timing, is believable through and through, loves opera, food, and is slow to go in relationships. Abigail Breslin, Zoe, is Kate's niece, the very same child star you saw in Little Miss Sunshine. She doesn't disappoint here, either.
Such a feel good/feel bad/feel good movie, what a surprise. Add an extra feel bad if you're me and just HATE matricide or reminders that mothers die and leave small children. I can deal with it any day of the week in the office and do, but when I'm off, would rather not. Not at the movies. (But CZJ, food, no contest)
It's one of those films that didn't know where to end, so we get a third act (thanks #1 son for pointing that out to me) to make it even longer. It's like a good read. We like 'em long, more pages, please. With lower back issues you're fine without Act Three, but like many second endings, the real second end is better, so you might as well sit back and enjoy it. Oh, and finally, finally, finally, a little conflict.
There are all kinds of ways to do reviews, and my way is to take a look at the scenes that make me want to stand up and scream, "NO, NO, NO! It's just WRONG to say that! Or, WHY OH WHY would you say that in THAT WAY!" Either the content or the process is lame and I'm always wanting to correct errors in either/or.
For your edification.
The script is just fine. The cringe is that dysfunction is bound to happen, something WILL go wrong when people deliver bad news badly. In this case because Kate's character is vulnerable yet altogether tactless, when she delivers poorly, it's unintentional, but painful to watch. She has this, I-really-don't-get-it-ness, a pathetic lack of social sensitivity.
Examples, just two.
Kate's at work and gets a phone call in the kitchen. Her face drops and she dashes off to the hospital to see her niece Zoe, who is still alive, but all bandaged up, attached to machines with tubes. The doctor tells Kate that her sister, Zoe's mom, didn't make it in the car accident. It's going to be Kate who has to tell Zoe.
Kate is in a chair by the hospital bed. The kid wakes up. Her eyes well up with tears. Kate looks at her. Hi Zoe.
I want my mom. I want my mom. Where is my mom???@@!!! (tears stream)
IS MY MOM DEAD?
From the chair: Yes. She's dead.
She doesn't move in close, doesn't take Zoe's hand, doesn't soften the impact (as if you really can but you have to try).
She's dead from three feet away.
Wooden human wake up call here. I know, I know, how hard it can be to make that moving in close move, but there are so many times, so many times you have to move in, maybe touch someone.
I tell students: There are times to move in. There are times I move my chair closer. I don't take anyone's hand, but I move in.
Okay, the next scene I hated, and I'll stop. Seriously, I loved the movie and would totally rent it with the girls.
Kate drops Zoe off at school but the school principal (Stephanie Berry, great) calls her over to talk. Zoe's been nodding off in class, according to her teacher, and when asked, has mentioned working at the restaurant and going to bed really late.
There are laws against that sort of thing. We'll have custody revoked if it continues. Great.
So how does Kate tell Zoe? Does she say, Honey, let's talk about working at the restaurant, I know you love it, but you're falling asleep at school, and that's not good, and I have this fantastic babysitter who will watch movies with you, or maybe even cook with you, tell you a bedtime story. . .
No. She says, Zoe, you can't work at the restaurant or they'll take you away. I don't want them to take you away. Now Zoe's most catastrophic fears are realized, You don't want me. I want my MOMMY@!@!
Enough said. A therapist that only sees individuals is going to look at Kate's personality and think. . .borderline. . .narcissism. . .A family therapist looks at it and says, tweak here, tweak there. She can do it.
Best parts of the movie are the therapy scenes, not too many, just enough. All I can tell you is that it's not good form to eat food that your patient has prepared for you, not usually, not really. Unless, of course. . .
Copyright 2007, therapydoc