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"Mostly Martha"

Directed by Sandra Nettelbeck.
Written by Sandra Nettelbeck. 
Starring Martina Gedeck (mostly).
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  8/26/02 


“Mostly Martha” is a tiny little German film made tinier by the fact blows.

Okay, maybe that is a little strong.  But, it sure ain’t too good.  Maybe for me it was the fact that the film is such a downer; its tale of loneliness, upper-crusty culinary delights and the tragic loss of the lead character’s sister in the opening moments just set a negative tone for me.  And, because the film is so quiet (not “In the Bedroom”-quiet; just not much going on) early on, I was surprised that I didn’t fall asleep.  But, “Mostly Martha” picks up as it goes along.  Martha (Martina Gedeck) is a chef in an unnamed German town in the present day.  Her world is completely and utterly food-driven; she compulsively cooks food for herself while at home—and occasionally actually eats the food—and she drives herself hard while cooking for one of the city’s finest four-star restaurants.  When her sister is involved in a fatal accident, Martha becomes the foster parent for Lina (Maxime Foerste), a stubborn 8-year-old who derails completely after losing her mother.  The relationship between aunt and niece is badly strained until an Italian chef named Mario (Sergio Castellitto) starts working at the restaurant and turns everything around.

It is when Mario enters the picture at about the midway point that “Mostly Martha” really gathers some life.  Castellitto is great in the movie and by serving as both the comic relief and the obvious love interest for Martha, his added dimension makes the film watchable.  And, if you like looking at finely-prepared meals, you might like the sights, but for me, it was a bunch of food that I either can’t afford or don’t want to eat, so that was a downer too.  But, I just found myself sitting in the theater tonight saying “blah” a lot—nothing about “Mostly Martha” is very interesting cinematically, and the narrative is a tried-and-true version of a food-is-love theme seen often in recent releases like “Big Night” and “Chocolat.”  The drama between Lina and Martha feels real, but not real interesting.  It doesn’t help that Lina’s character only shows life in one or two of her many scenes; otherwise, she is (understandably) mournful.

And, the score of this film is atrocious.  Wow!  All I could think of every time they played the same little jazz tune is when the band from “Saturday Night Live” would play before commercial breaks—this is as bland as it gets.  It’s just the kind of music that you would baste your turkey in.  Ech.  Support by The Other People in the Movie is nothing to write home about, and scenes with Martha’s psychiatrist (August Zirner) are mostly bad.  This movie also features one of those flash-forward endings where we get to see what happens with Martha a few months and a few years from now; I’ve never really gotten into that if these are made-up characters.  Just end your movie already!

The best thing about this movie came during the screening in the audience; one of the women sitting nearby had this really bad, embarrassing laugh that I am sure made someone next to her VERY uncomfortable.  You know what I’m saying?  This lady was laughing at damned near everything that even had a hint of humor in it, so lots of times she was laughing when nothing was happening, because she couldn’t STOP laughing at the previous scene.  This made me laugh a couple of times at her (not WITH her).  Good stuff...but, you had to be there.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09