September 06, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Mostly Martha

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
runtime
107 minutes
Limited Release Date
08/16/02
performer
Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto, Maxime Foerste, August Zirner
director
Sandra Nettelbeck
distributor
Paramount Classics
author
Sandra Nettelbeck
genre
Romance, Comedy
We gave it a B

In this piquant, food-signifies-sex diversion by German filmmaker Sandra Nettelbeck, Martina Gedeck stars as an esteemed Hamburg chef who, despite her elegant physical resemblance to a younger Meryl Streep, has none of Streep’s access to passion: Martha is good with leeks but lousy with other humans. And she’s nearly undone by change — first when tragedy temporarily requires her to become the guardian of her sad and angry young niece, and second when Mario, a sensually rumpled Italian sous chef (Sergio Castellitto), shows up on Martha’s restaurant turf. There are few surprises in this recipe: Spicy Mario seasons lean-cut-of-beef Martha to taste and before long she’s quivering like the luscious cookery star of TV’s Nigella Bites. But Nettelbeck has a particularly lovely sense of behind-the-scenes restaurant choreography. And her warm, patient understanding of little girls’ psyches guides young Maxime Foerste, as the turbulent niece, to a terrific performance.

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