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Image credit: Atonement, 2007

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers (of cocktails and movies!) out there. This week, I’m honoring one of the great love affairs in cinema history: the one that exists between the infamous Jacqueline Durran-designed Green Dress, and my eyeballs. Grab the tissues and the chocolate bars for this week’s film Atonement (Disc/Download).

Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, Joe Wright’s adaptation is every bit as gorgeous as the source material. This story of young lovers separated by class difference and a fatal lie is gripping, haunting, and always leaves me feeling like I got hit by a truck. But the clothes- THE CLOTHES. I keep coming back to see Keira Knightley swan around like she’s on the cover of a 1930s issue of Vogue, in everything from evening gowns to slips to swimwear. Honestly, the saddest part of this movie isn’t the ending; it’s watching Cecilia trade her couture for a WWII British nurse’s uniform (although, I do enjoy a good wool cape). The cast of this film is a who’s who of British talent, such as James McAvoy, Juno Temple, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s a young Saoirse Ronan who really steals the show as imaginative, manipulative Briony. Such a devious villain in such innocent packaging! In the end, this entire story is Briony’s attempt at atonement, and the audience is left to decide whether she’s finally paid for the sin of being a fanciful, jealous girl. Perhaps, having the same boring haircut for sixty years is the real punishment.

As I mentioned earlier, chocolate plays a hefty supporting roll in this film. Benedict Cumberbatch’s character owns a chocolate factory, and he is more than happy to make everyone his signature sipper, the “Choc-tail”, which is described as rum and dark chocolate syrup over crushed ice.

However, his character is the creep to end all creeps, and I don’t feel like celebrating this perverted Willy Wonka. So let’s do our own “Choc-tail”, in the form of a Chocolate Rum Old Fashioned.

Chocolate Rum Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz Dark Rum

1/4 oz Simple Syrup

1 dash of Angostura Bitters

1 dash of Chocolate Bitters

Grapefruit Peel

Grated dark chocolate

Combine rum, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing tin with ice. Stir well, and strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Express the grapefruit peel over the drink, then drop in. Grate a dusting of dark chocolate over the top.

If you enjoy Downton Abbey, World War II epics like The English Patient and Dunkirk, and dinner parties where people get very dressed up, then Atonement is the movie for you. Passion, glamour, chocolate, and rum- sounds like a perfect Valentine’s Day to me. Cheers!

Anna Karenina

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anna karenina

Image credit: Anna Karenina, 2012

Continuing with this month’s theme of powerful corseted women and the ineffectual men who love them, I turn my attention now to 19th century Russia and the classic tale of Anna Karenina (DVD/Download). There have been several adaptations over the years, but my favorite is the most recent film starring Keira Knightley. She’s, to be honest, not that amazing as Karenina, but the film itself is beautifully stylized. Is it a play? Is it a film? Is it Gigi without the singing? Who knows! Who cares!

In Oscar winning creations from costume designer Jacqueline Durran, Knightley frets her way through train stations, lavish balls, theatrical sets, and her chilly home with husband Alexei Karenin, played by Jude Law (with what I fear is his actual receding hairline). I must be getting old if Jude Law is playing the cuckolded husband instead of the dashing young Count Vronsky. I guess it’s not 1997 anymore. For anyone who has ever felt that Tolstoy was inaccessible, director Joe Wright proves you wrong. Through his vision, this classic tale becomes a stylish soap opera- The Cold & the Beautiful, perhaps? Adultery, illegitimate children, unrequited love, suicide- St. Petersburg seems downright scandalous.

My beverage of choice may cause some laughs, but I decided to go literal this week. While watching Anna Karenina, I recommend drinking a White Russian.

White Russian

1.5 oz vodka

.75 oz Kahlua

.75 oz heavy cream

Shake well with ice, then pour into a chilled glass.

White russian

I was surprised to see Alicia Vikander pop up in this film as Kitty, although I shouldn’t have been because she is EVERYWHERE now. Somehow, I managed to watch Burnt, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Anna Karenina all in one week, not knowing this It Girl was in all three. It’s easy to forget about her truly lovely Karenina subplot involving a country boy’s love for a city girl, but next to the flash of Anna and her man triangle, it’s a welcome respite. Critics were certainly torn on this heavily stylized film, but in my opinion, it makes a classic story even more exhilarating. Cheers!*

*Side note, I tried to find the Russian equivalent of “cheers”, but Google tells me a classic toast in Russia involves the telling of a short story or anecdote. That sounds awfully complicated and very Tolstoy. So perhaps this entire post is one long toast. You’re welcome, Russia.