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Mostly Martha (2001)
"Bella Martha" (original title)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Romance, Drama  |  27 September 2002 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 6,493 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 84 user | 57 critic | 28 from Metacritic.com

When a headstrong chef takes charge of her equally stubborn 8-year-old niece, the tensions between them mount... until an Italian sous-chef arrives to lighten the mood.

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Title: Mostly Martha (2001)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Maxime Foerste ...
...
Mario
August Zirner ...
Sibylle Canonica ...
Katja Studt ...
Lea
...
Idil Üner ...
...
Jan
...
Sam Thalberg
Gerhard Garbers ...
Herr Steinberg
Angela Schmidt ...
Frau Steinberg
Diego Ribon ...
Giuseppe Lorenzo
W.D. Sprenger ...
Noisy customer
Victoria Trauttmansdorff ...
Companion (as Victoria von Trautmannsdorf)
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Storyline

In a German restaurant, Chef Martha Klein is the undisputed supreme ruler of the kitchen staff and woe to any customer who would dare criticize her cooking. Her life is firmly centered around cooking which takes on a obsessive level with stubborn single mindedness. Even when she is ordered to take therapy, she still constantly talks about her work and the iron clad control she relishes in her task. All that changes when her sister dies in a car accident, leaving her 8 year old daughter, Lina. Martha takes her niece in and while making enquiries for her estranged father, she struggles to care for this stubbornly headstrong child. Meanwhile at work, a new chef named Mario is hired on and Martha feels threatened by this unorthodox intruder. The pressures of both her private and work life combine to create a situation that will fundamentally call her attitudes and life choices into question while these interlopers into her life begin to profoundly change it. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@rogers.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In Martha's enchanted kitchen, more than the food is starting to simmer. With some special ingredients they just might discover a recipe for passion. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic material and mild language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

27 September 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mostly Martha  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$40,446 (USA) (16 August 2002)

Gross:

$4,158,045 (USA) (17 January 2003)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sergio Castellitto's German wasn't good enough so Frank Glaubrecht was brought in to dub his voice for the German version. See more »

Goofs

When Martha and Mario first kiss, he leans to the right with the left side of their noses touching. In the next shot he's leaning to the left. See more »

Quotes

Mario: [to Frida, about chef Martha] It's your restaurant, but her kitchen. Without her, it's just a pile of metal. It's for her to decide.
See more »

Connections

Remade as No Reservations (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Darkwood VII: New Morning
Written and Performed by David Darling
ECM Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Four relationships, two fronts, an island (no woman is....)
23 February 2003 | by (Hong Kong) – See all my reviews

(spoiler regarding the general plot)

Bella Martha reminds me of About A Boy, the "no man is an island" aspect of it. In some ways, Martha is like the guy played by Hugh Grant. The difference though is that while he apparently is really happy about the state of affairs, i.e. the isolation, she is not (even if she may not be fully aware of her own unhappiness). She has to visit a therapist regularly, although she claims that this is purely on instruction of her boss. I call this visit the first of the four "relationships" just to make the number sound more interesting.

The other three relationship all start to develop quite early in the film. First, a neighbour moves in, a gentlemanly engineer called Sam. Then in her "office" i.e. the kitchen of a restaurant where she is the chef, a chap called Mario is brought in by her boss as temporary relief for her assistant on maternity leave. Finally, death of her single-parent sister in an accident left her taking care of her eight-year-old niece Lina while they search her father in Italy.

The first half of the film developed these three relationships along the two fronts: home and office. Soon, it is clear that Sam's role is not really significant, serving just as a dependable friend and emergency-baby-sitter. On the other hand, rocky starts of the other two relationships smooth out as the two fronts merge. Lina comes to the restaurant kitchen in the evenings, becoming a darling there, while Mario becomes a family friend and Lina's buddy, and the three look just like a family. We begin to see smiles on Martha's face.

As in similar movies, just after the mid-point, when characters are well developed and things go nicely, conflicts occur. What I found is that the hostility of Lina towards Martha is less than convincing, even if we take into account her possible rejection of Martha as a mother-substitution. The eventual reconciliation also comes a little too easily. The other conflicts, on which I won't go into details, are not that well developed.

But that is exactly the main point. This is not a Hollywood movie with the standard formula of powerful dramatic conflicts and climatic tear-jerking conclusions. This point is well made when we see the ending of the story given to us quite casually as part of the credit roll. Oh yes, there's a concluding scene with the therapist, reminding us of the sense of humour that comes as part of the film.

Smooth jazz (not sure if that's the right terminology) has been used throughout the film, at the right times, enhancing it rather than distracting from it.

Finally, I really love the scenes in the kitchen which is Martha's entire universe at the beginning of the film, as well as where her reconciliation with both Mario and Lina first takes place. The story aside, I really enjoy the operation in the kitchen, which is the exact opposite to the mass production lines brought about by the industrial revolution. Here, in Martha's kitchen, things are done with what I can only describe as artistic flair.


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