No Reservations about Mostly Martha

Six months ago a friend loaned us a DVD of the German movie Mostly Martha. Being dyslexic I’m not a huge fan of foreign films with English subtitles, I just can’t keep up and that can wreck the movie for me. There are exceptions, the most notable being Cinema Paradiso which I’ve watched many times over the years, never tiring of it.

So, we put in Mostly Martha with reservations and within a few minutes of starting the movie, the subtitles faded into the background, Martina Gedeck’s Martha character took off and we were hooked. Martha is a chef in a high-end restaurant in a coastal city in Germany who happens to be a control freak and a perfectionist. The kitchen, the characters, the restaurant, her apartment, it’s all incredibly well developed, of a piece. Even the detail of the way she puts on her apron is beautifully captured in the film. The music by Keith Jarret and my friend David Darling is also a plus. This movie is first rate and like Cinema Paradiso we’ve watched it numerous times.

When we heard that there was going to be an American remake of Mostly Martha we were curious but skeptical. Why make another version? Yes, Mostly Martha might have been a sleeper (a good movie few see) but to make another version of it means that someone thought the screenplay was good, maybe the acting, but possibly there was a buck to be made with a non-subtitled version. Ugh.

When I found the American remake, No Reservations on Amazon, I ordered it with mixed feelings.

Last night we gave it a try and we really did try to like it on its own terms but watching it, especially knowing the quality of the original film, made me cringe. Here is Catherine Zeta-Jones saying Martina Gedeck’s lines verbatum and it’s not working. There is nothing behind the characters in this movie. In the original, Martha is an obsessive compulsive chef in a high end German Restaurant where the pressure is obvious, both external and internal. In the copy, Kate (the Martha chacter) is just angry but who knows about what?

The only character worth watching in the remake is Bob Balaban who plays Kate’s psychiatrist but in fact, in the remake Kate doesn’t seem to need to be going to a psychiatrist at all so the character has no purpose.

We didn’t finish the movie, I just couldn’t take it and I immediately sold it on Amazon and wrote a less than positive review of it.

This film is a complete rip of the German film, Mostly Martha, line by line, scene by scene. Very little original here.

Mostly Martha is a fantastic film and frankly, I had reservations (pun intended) about seeing this film because I didn’t want to ruin the wonderful taste in my brain of the original.

Why remake what is already a great movie? Just to get it in English? That’s a sad commentary on American audiences.

While most of the actors in this movie are fine in other films, they do a terrible job compared with their European counterparts; Catherine Zeta-Jones just is no Martina Gedeck who put in a spectacular performance as Martha.

I urge anyone reading these reviews and considering this movie to check out Mostly Martha, it’s a gem of a movie and a much finer portrayal of what is a great screenplay.

Part of me is delighted that the remake hasn’t done well, the original Mostly Martha is a gem and anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it really should.

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