|Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellito
Hollywood can be a real copycat sometimes, getting their ideas from foreign films, and lots of time the original is much better.
Gabriele Muccino’s l’Ultimo Bacio was remade into the dreary Zack Braff movie, The Last Kiss. The truly dismal Dinner For Schmucks was originally a well liked French movie, Le Dîner de Cons. And Catherine Zeta Jones’s No Reservations (did anyone see that one? I don’t know anyone who actually did) was first a wonderful, very popular German movie called Bella Martha – in Germany, Mostly Martha – in America, and Le Ricette d’Amore – in Italy.( I have no way to back this up, but I would bet anything that the word most likely to be in the title of an Italian movie is “amore”.)
It was very successful in Germany, but also in Italy – probably because of the lead actor, an Italian,the super talented Sergio Castellito (Non ti Muovere, Caterina Va in Città, Il Regista di Matrimonio). For Italian movie lovers ” Le Ricette d’Amore” (Recipes of Love – let’s use its Italian name) is worth watching just for Castellito, who is adorable here, but the German actors are pretty good too. Martha is played by Martina Gedeck, an award winning actress who won the European Film Award’s Best Actress Award for the Academy Award winning, “The Lives of Others” ( excellent, by the way).
The movie starts with Martha, a chef, in a therapist’s office, and she’s talking about cooking. The therapist is clearly unhappy – you get the idea that she doesn’t talk about much of anything else – and he interrupts to ask her, “Why do you come here?”
“Because my boss told me that if I don’t she’ll fire me”, she tells him.
Martha is obsessed with her job, with cooking, and with food, and thinks about little else. She doesn’t socialize – she just works, and her coworkers think of her as a cold fish. As they take their breaks and eat, talk, laugh, and gossip, Martha sits with a book, refusing to eat what others have cooked.
When her sister dies and her niece comes to live with her she’s like a wind-up toy that hits a wall – she doesn’t know how to change directions and comfort the grieving child. When everything goes haywire in her life, and haywire is a state that does not suit Martha, she reluctantly turns to the cook that has been hired to “help her” (when she bristled at the idea of help) in her kitchen, an Italian named Mario who has a way with kids.
There’s so much to love about “Le Ricette d’Amore”, but I think the biggest is the child. They didn’t try to make her precocious, or saccharinly adorable, or wiser than the adults, as so many movies do. They just made her a sad, depressed little girl who has lost her mother and can not be consoled.
Martha, who wants to help but just doesn’t know how, has to figure it out. By accepting help that she hasn’t ever been willing to accept, she figures it out.
You can make it easy on yourself and get “Mostly Martha” – the American release. It’s been subtitled (the Italian version was dubbed, but dubbed in Italian, of course).
Director: Sandra Nettelbeck
Writer: Sandra Nettelbeck
Stars: Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste and Sergio Castellitto