The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF, aka Asianfest) started last Thursday. I wasn't quite as prepared as I've been in past years, and I had trouble ordering tickets online, but thanks to some much appreciated help, I've got my schedule and tickets taken care of now.
Only problem, the opening night film was listed as Rush Only online, so I went all the way up to the city not knowing if I'd be successful or not. Well, first off it wasn't rush, there were plenty of tickets available. Second, I ran into a friend (who I won't name in case this gets him in trouble) who got me into the VIP pre-party. Free snacks and drinks before the movie! Damn it's good to be awesome!
Okay, then the film itself. TODAY'S SPECIAL stars and was co-written by Aasif Mandvi (star of the Cinequest 2009 short THE RESPONSE and also some every-day show on TV). He stars as Samir, a sous-chef in a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. He runs a tight, efficient ship, but his recipes lack a certain spirit--he's too by-the-book with no creativity. And so when he's passed over for the head chef position at his boss's new restaurant, he throws a bit of a fit and quits.
He's equally unlucky in love, although that will clearly change with the introduction of Carrie (Jess Weixler from TEETH). I like her and she does a great job here, but in large part the romantic subplot feels a little tacked on. I don't know how to do it better, but I wish it were better integrated. I think the biggest problem is it never seemed like Samir was looking for love. He went on dates because his mother forced him to, and they inevitably failed. When he and Carrie meet, I don't feel the motivation for either of them to form a relationship.
Anyway, Samir is now out of work, but has a plan to move to Paris and apprentice for a famous chef. The last thing he wants to do is cook Indian food, especially the greasy slop in his dad's restaurant--Tandoori Palace in Jackson Heights. But his dad's heart attack leaves him with little choice, and with the help of Bollywood star Naseerudin Shah as a mystic chef turned cabbie turned back to chef, he learns not just how to cook today's special ("trust me") but he learns that today is special.
Funny movie, with a great supporting cast (I haven't even mentioned Wes Anderson regular Kumar Pullana or famed Indian actress/chef Madhur Jaffrey as Samir's mother--oddly enough, she was not used as a cooking consultant)
Oh yeah, and I should mention that director David Kaplan's previous feature--YEAR OF THE FISH--was also a brilliant charmer as Asianfest '07. Welcome back, Mr. Kaplan!
Running Time: 99 minutes
My Total Minutes: 176,872