Quickie Review: Today’s Special

Today’s Special is a deceptively quaint title that actually says a lot about this quiet, under-the-radar film. Funny, often earnest, and always insightful, it’s one of those rare films whose canny observations are often more interesting than the story itself. If you are a foodie, or even better, if Indian food is your first love, then find a way to see this film, which hit select theatres last week.

Samir (played by Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi) is a down-and-out sous chef passed over for a promotion. After his father has a heart-attack, he is forced to take over the family’s Indian restaurant, Tandoori Palace, which has also fallen on some hard times. Through an unlikely meeting with cab driver Akbar (Bollywood hero Naseeruddin Shah), Samir learns how to really cook Indian food, and in the process saves the restaurant.

But to spend too much time on a paint-by-numbers plot is to deny the simple pleasures of this film. For example, Samir must go on dates with Indian women to appease his traditional parents; Henna, his first, asks him point blank whether he would be fine with “lots of kids” and “my mother living with us.” Unshaken by his summary rejection of Henna, his mom slips a printout of a profile page through the bathroom door as he tries to have a private conversation which she is convinced is “phone sex.” While Samir meets Carrie (Jess Weixler), his happily ever after, it is these early dating scenes which stick.

Shah, who plays Akbar, is a stand-out performer and another reason to like Today’s Special. While he has only made it stateside in a couple of roles, including opposite Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he should be a household name in America. There are only so many actors who can make grocery shopping fun—I think he calls cinnamon “a spicy bitch.” There are many funny moments like this that populate an otherwise rote film–a reminder that like any good dish, a movie’s details can be the most pleasing parts.

3 responses to “Quickie Review: Today’s Special

  1. Nice review! I feel like I’m reading a national magazine with a veteran critic. 😀

  2. Thanks! That means a lot.

  3. While you say the movie is rote, I genuinely enjoyed it. I think it’s as enjoyable as the major box office hit Julie & Julia (and possibly more enjoyable, considering Amy Adam’s lackluster performance). I left genuinely wishing that it was a true story…very sweet story.

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