Take a Bite Out of ‘Today’s Special’!
by Nile Fortner
The 2009 independent comedy film Today’s Special comes from fairy tale and folklore director David Kaplan and the film is an adaptation from the Off-Broadway play. Taking place mostly in an Indian restaurant, a young Manhattan chef played by Aasif Mandvi (The Internship and Spider-Man 2) rediscovers his passion for life by making Indian food. The film mostly has a Bollywood cast and has been played at the Mumbai Indian Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival where it won the “Best of the Fest” award.
This delightful ethnic comedic film has a fun tone and characters throughout the movie. Mandvi plays a chef named Samir that has big dreams of being a chef in Paris. On the other hand, Samir was recently fired and has had some family issues with his father having a heart attack. Samir stays in Manhattan and takes over his father’s Indian restaurant. Samir is a character with a heart full of humor. Mandvi has had his take on comedy before being in the Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn comedy The Internship along with being a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Today’s Special gives Mandvi the opportunity to show he can deliver funny dialogue first-rate and that he can write funny lines for himself and others. Mandvi is a co-writer on the script, his acting, and writing skills go hand-in-hand.
Even though the film is Rated R, I do not understand why because this should easily be PG-13. That being said, I do not believe this film will attract the audience wanting Rated R laughs and edgy jokes. However, I do see this movie mostly attracting the audience looking for ethnic stories and foodie -fanatics. I see this attracting the same audience members as those who have seen Bradley Cooper in the movie Burnt or Jon Favreau’s 2014 film Chef.
Much like Chef, this 2009 film understands that the character should be just as appetizing as the food. Earlier I mentioned how Samir is comedic. But he is also passionate about the food and you can tell from his acting and body language. You can see this in the way Samir smiles at his own food creations, the way he picks up the chopping knife, and perfectly cuts with every motion precisely. Acting with body language is something I hardly discuss but you’ll definitely notice Samir’s throughout the movie.
Samir is introduced to another character and his passion for cooking leads to romance. Carrie, played by Jessie Weixler, is a white American who is taking a deep interest in and liking into the Indian culture and Samir’s family. Her character feels a little forced and it seems a bit cliché to have a random love interest. However, I enjoy seeing how someone from Western culture is accepting of their Indian culture and it’s almost as if we (Western culture in the States) are experiencing the story through her shoes. By this I mean, she is the one that gives us a look into a culture we may not know much about. Actual chef and hall of fame cookbook author, Madhur Jaffrey, plays Samir’s mother. For foodie-fans, this seems more like a cameo because I honestly she isn’t given much to do in the film. She drops words of encouragement for Samir and that’s really about it.
Director David Kaplan once again shows us an ethnic story similar to his last feature film, Year of the Fish which was set in New York’s Chinatown. Kaplan did a fine job of making this still have those elements of the 1998 play because watching this does remind me of a play with some of the limited scenes and locations. This is a good and not so good thing because even though the film captures the spirit of the play, I personally would have enjoyed a couple of more locations, scenes, and from what I’ve heard and read is a copy and paste of the play. I think with maybe a bigger budget and production, both the play and the film could have stood on their own separately.
The film will also stir up your appetite. While watching this I wanted to sniff the aroma of the curry chicken and my mouth watered the moment I saw the Indian-style bread with Red Chile Sambal sauce, mmmm-delicious. Overall, the message of the film is to appreciate what is and has been in front of you and the food is symbolic of that. It’s a feel-good movie with some similar cliché story elements, but providing new laughs, and a cast that is new to me.
I am giving Today’s Special a 3.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!