Mostly Martha (Bella Martha) Made in: Germany Language: German Director: Sandra Nettelbeck Starring: Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto, Maxime Foerste, Sibylle Canonica, Ulrich Thomsen Year: 2002
Synopsis: A gifted chef who's skill is only matched by her obsessive perfectionism, Martha Klein (Martina Gedeck), rules the kitchen of the swanky Lido Restaurant with an iron skillet.
Her tight but loyal crew of cooks and waiters toil like mad in the hectic atmosphere night after night, but churn out the best foods made from Martha's arsenal of recipes.
Constantly stressed, she feels little happiness amidst her passion. And on the rare occasions when her intricate entrees are sent back, the ungrateful customer gets an unexpected (and wrathful) lecture from Martha. As a result, her boss Frida (Sibylle Canonica), who's also the restaurant owner, orders her to attend weekly therapy sessions.
Things in Martha's life only get more complicated when she's forced to care for her eight year-old niece, Lina (Maxime Foerste), after Martha's sister dies in a sudden car wreck. On top of that, a new, eccentric Italian cook named Mario (Sergio Castellitto) is brought on board to work under her.
The Good: The cast is generally terrific, but Martina Gedeck stands out as the neurotic, complicated protagonist. Mostly Martha is tightly written, very well executed, and the kitchen scenes will make your mouth water.
The versatile Sergio Castellitto, as the laid-back but talented new cook, plays well against Gedeck's uptight Martha. August Zirner's small role as Martha's therapist is notable as well.
The development between Martha and her niece ranges from touching to humorous, and maintains a genuine feel without descending into tearjerking melodrama.
The Bad: Talented Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen plays Sam, Martha's likeable new neighbor. But his character is underused and nearly irrelevant.
Who would like this movie: I'd recommend Mostly Martha for food connoisseurs and cooking enthusiasts. Again, the kitchen scenes will make you hungry.
Aficionados of foreign films will like it as well, but the themes and plot are pretty much universal. It's not an extraordinary picture, but it is very good and contains plenty of wit. Don't watch on an empty stomach!