MOSTLY MARTHA -- also known as BELLA MARTHA -- is the German film which provided the original source material for the Catherine Zeta-Jones film NO RESERVATIONS, reviewed here last summer. Martina Gedeck plays Martha Klein, an uptight chef whose world is turned upside down first by her orphaned niece, Lina (Maxime Foerste) and then by a free-spirited Italian chef, Mario (Sergio Castellitto).
I caught the movie this weekend thanks to Netflix, and enjoyed it very much. The film struck me as a bit darker in tone than NO RESERVATIONS -- perhaps because of the storyline concerning Lina's Italian father, which was completely dropped from NO RESERVATIONS. I also felt that the little girl's character was not developed as fully as in NO RESERVATIONS.
That said, it's a very well-done movie which is definitely worth seeing. Gedeck does an excellent job portraying the gradual unraveling of the tightly wound Martha into someone capable of expressing love and having a life outside a restaurant kitchen. Along with the drama there are some very funny scenes -- don't turn the movie off too quickly at the end or you'll miss a delightful postscript with Martha and her therapist.
The film runs 109 minutes. It was written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, who also has an uncredited cameo as Lina's mother in a home video.
MOSTLY MARTHA is available DVD and VHS. It has a German-language soundtrack with English subtitles. I was interested both in how many random German words were understood by me, despite not having studied German since high school, and in how many English terms have worked their way into German -- they used the English word "babysitter" rather than a German translation, for example.
NO RESERVATIONS, incidentally, comes to DVD on February 12, just in time for Valentine's Day. Extras include the episode of the Food Network show UNWRAPPED which focused on the movie.