David Kaplan‘s Today’s Special (Reliance Mediaworks, 11.19) is a mild little foodie comedy that would like to be an Indian Tampopo. You’d think that a film based on an Obie Award-winning stage play (i.e., Sakina’s Restaurant, written by the film’s star and cowriter Aasif Mandvi) might have a certain quality of refinement, but all it delivers is a kind of innocuous likableness, largely due to Mandvi’s performance (he has presence, a certain gravity) and an appealing older actor named Naseeruddin Shah.
Otherwise Today’s Special doesn’t have the chops or the style or that extra X-factor that might lift it up and over.
There’s one profoundly irritating scene in Today’s Special that I have to at least mention. Aasif, a Manhattan-based sous chef stuck running his father’s Indian food restaurant in Queens, is shown pedaling his bike down a crowded Queens boulevard. Several large bags of Indian take-out are crammed into the basket. Suddenly he spots Jess Weixler (Alexander the Last), whom he knows from his previous job and would like to get down with. And right away I began muttering to myself “please…please don’t crash the bike and spill the take-out food on the street because you’re so distracted by the sight of Weixler….please don’t do that…I’m begging you…please, PLEASE” — and that’s exactly what he does.
As soon as this happened I said to myself, “Okay, that’s it — I don’t respect Mandvi any more, I don’t want these two to get together, I don’t want to watch this film…I’m out.”
But the party for Today’s Special, which I attended the night before last, was brilliant.
It was held in a private residence (the home of Noelle Twiggs, founder of a health-food website called Green Lemonade) on Soho’s Greene Street. The guests were seated on both sides of two long banquet tables adorned with candelabras, and with red Indian-style fabric hanging on the walls. Magnificent Indian food was prepared and served by chefs Akhtar Nawab (La Esquina), Kevin Patricio (Blue Hill) and Michael Hebb (One Pot). And Siddharta Khosla (of the band Goldspot) sang three songs for an after-dinner entertainment.
I attended the Today’s Special party (which meant blowing off a dinner with The Fighter‘s David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg) because I wanted to chat with Weixler, whom I’ve taken a mild shine to, and maybe snap a couple of photos. I’d tried to arrange an interview earlier in the day but the obstructions from 42West and Weixler’s Baker Winokur Ryder reps were too much for me to handle. (They said I could do an hour-long phoner but not a half-hour long in-person chat, despite my willingness to meet near her Brooklyn home.)
So I found it strange that after all the problems in not getting this interview that I went to the party and hung out the entire night near the front of the room, adjacent to the kitchen area, with the idea of catching Weixler’s eye and taking a shot or two, and I never even saw her. No publicist said word one to me all night about where she was sitting, or offered to introduce or anything along those lines. Weixler must have slipped in very stealthily, apparently, or stealthily, at least, as far as I was concerned, and stayed in her seat. The room was candle-lit and on the dark side, as mentioned, and everyone was sitting at the two long tables but…well, it was just weird.
So the food was sublime and everyone was charming and helpful, but I’m trying to think of the last time I went to a party with the express intent of speaking with an actress and not even seeing her or her reps the whole night. It was like some kind of bizarre avoidance game that everyone was in on except me. And to think I could have avoided this whole charade and hung out with Wahlberg and Russell uptown.
Weixler sent a note the next day by way of BWR. It said thanks for saying “such lovely things about me” and that she was “sorry our schedules didn’t work out,” etc. And that’s fine. She’s cool. But those publicists, I’m telling you, were playing an odd game.