Last week I was browsing the movie options on Netflix’s (as I often do in the evening) and I came across Today’s Special (David Kaplan, 2009). Due to the size of my TV screen, the distance away from the screen, and my poor eyesight I could not read the brief description that Netflix’s provides. But I saw that it had 4.5 to 5 stars and from the picture could tell that it had to do with cooking. If you know me or anyone in my family – and even if you don’t (you will now) – you know the famous quote, “foods a really big deal in this house.” Everyone in my family cooks, and we have all worked in a restaurant at some point in time in our lives. So stumbling across a food related comedy, that I hadn’t seen, for me, was very exciting. Once I found it, I knew what my night would look like; I would be glued to the couch with tea, snacks, and because it’s winter in Norther Michigan… blankets.
I am happy to report I most definitely agree with Netflix’s star rating when it comes to this film, I thoroughly enjoyed Today’s Special! As Ebert mentions in his review of the film in 2010, the story arch is old and predictable, but the cast does a wonderful job sucking you into the world that was created. The film opens in a high-class restaurant kitchen, where Samir is the sous chef. Though Samir believes he should become the chef at the new restaurant which is being opened by his boss, he is passed over and the chef position is given to a young cook, with far less experience. Because Samir is so upset with the decision, he quits his job and says he has been offered an internship in Paris. Due to a family medical emergency Samir never gets to Paris. Instead, he has to move back into his parent’s house and take over the family restaurant. Taking over the family restaurant is not and easy task. There is a lot to do, and in his time of need, Samir turns to a former chef turned cab driver, Akbar. With Akbar’s help, Samir is able to turn the fate of his family restaurant around and repair his families strained relationship, brought on by generational clashes. By the end of the film much to the delight of Samir’s parents, Samir also finds love.
As I said, the story is totally predictable, it is a feel-good tale of self-discovery. However, for some reason, I remained enthralled by the film. One reason for this could have been the fact that Samir and his family are Indian and I absolutely adore Indian cuisine, because of its spectacular flavor. It is odd to learn that Samir has never cooked a traditional Indian meal. And thus has to hire a cab driver to teach him how to make garam masala. A process that Samir doesn’t get down until towards the end of the film when everything is left on his shoulders. Throughout Today’s Special Akbar serves as a sensei, teaching Samir more than how to cook an outstanding garam masala. (Note: I tend to cook without recipes too. So when Akbar says Indian cooking is all about heart (passion) and improvisation, I couldn’t help but smile.) As I am a fan of anthropology I also like how Samir’s Indian culture is woven into the film. It is uplifting to see Samir embrace his heritage and wake his father up so they can do morning prayer.
As I am a fan of anthropology I also like how Samir’s Indian culture is woven into the film. It is uplifting to see Samir embrace his heritage and wake his father up so they can do morning prayer, in traditional prayer attire. Watching Akbar, Samir, Carrie (an old co-worker and Samir’s romantic interest) and some of the restaurant’s regulars share a traditional home cooked meal is fantastic! The group shares stories, laughs, dances to traditional Indian music, and eats scrumptious looking Indian cuisine.At Akbar’s dinner, Samir teaches Carrie how to eat the traditional Indian was, with three fingers. This event only lasts a few seconds, but not only does it show the closeness between Samir and Carrie, but it also shows Samir embracing his culture and teaching Carrie to do that same. The colors that are in Akbar’s apartment scream Indian to me; reds, yellows, oranges, and gold are prominent and there are hints of blue and green. I love color! It adds life to a room, and different colors draw out different emotions. The reds, yellows, and oranges are like spices used in Indian cuisine, that add life, and pizzazz.
The last thing that draws me into a film is the little things. Interactions between characters no matter how small, if they show a character’s personality or two characters relationship, I am intrigued. I’m a people person, I like interpersonal communication and character driven stories. Today’s Special is very character driven. It is all about Samir and his journey from sous chef at a French restaurant to owner and chef at his own Indian restaurant. One of my favorite funny little moments is when Samir first returns to his parent’s house and he tries to call Carrie from the bathroom. He is hiding there in hopes of getting privacy, but his mother keeps asking him questions, some of which make Samir and the audience feel very awkward. At the beginning of the film Samir is very distant from his family, but through the course of the movie the grow closer. It is both a sad and joyous occasion when Samir finds old family photographs and decides to frame them and put them on display. The montage which showcases the Tandoori Palace’s rebirth and the growth in the relationship between Samir and Carrie is sweet, cute, and funny even though it is overused. Then again I could be partial to the addition of couple painting on the floor with Carrie’s toddler.
Lastly, the name of the film, I personally think is brilliant! It ties into films theme very well. And it picks up on one of the little things, that helped me fall in love with the film. So if you are a foodie, like comedies, or binge on feel-good movies to combat the winter blues, please, check out Today’s Special.
If you still aren’t sure this film is a good fit for you, check out Today’s Special Trailer. Maybe that will intrigue you more than my positive review.