Want to Feel Good? Ask for Today’s Special (2009)
No CGA. No zombies or vampires. No special effects. No hate or revenge. No gratuitous sex. With all these negatives, what does Today’s Special have to recommend it? Its huge heart. Today’s Special is a movie that leaves the viewer happier after watching it. It is a film that does one thing and does it well--entertains. It explores conflict without exaggerating it, and focuses on love and family without being cynical.
Starring Aasif Mandvi as Samir the Americanized son of an Indian couple, Today’s Special is a comedy that can best be described as “heartwarming,” “feel-good,” and “delightful.” Samir is a sous chef in a busy New York restaurant who is technically good (that means he can follow a recipe) but his creations lack soul. When he is passed over for promotion, he impulsively decides to go to France to be a chef’s apprentice.
Samir’s father owns a greasy, nearly-bankrupt, little restaurant, the Tandoori Palace, and when he has a heart attack, Samir’s plans change. A chance meeting with a former co-worker (Jess Weixler) develops into a flirtation, and then romance. Samir’s father (Harish Patel) is disappointed in his son and his mother (Madhur Jaffrey) is forever trying to match him up with just the right Indian woman, both situations providing some family conflict.
Samir’s fortunes change when he meets the enigmatic Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah), a taxi driver, former chef, former teacher, former circus worker, former you-name-it. Akbar is a magician in the kitchen, following instinct rather than cookbooks, and soon the humble Tandoori Palace begins to thrive. Just as Samir finds his place in the restaurant's kitchen, Dad decides to sell it.
Today’s Special provides gentle humor more likely to produce smiles than out-loud laughs and owes much of its warmth to its cast and sensitive screenplay. It’s a comedy that doesn’t rely on digestive sound effects, raunchy jokes, or indelicate situations--a movie that proves its value with all the things it doesn’t do. While it’s sad there are so many cheesy things coming out of Hollywood that a film gets judged on what it avoids, it is a pleasure to watch Today’s Special, a film that impresses because it’s good on its own merits.Continued on the next page