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Dan in Real Life

Dan in Real Life

Image credit: Dan in Real Life, 2007

Fall is my favorite time of year, and not just because we’re finally entering Oscar-bait season at the multiplex. Rather, it’s a time I get to sit around my fire pit, drink spiced cocktails, and read a good book. If you’re looking for this feeling in cinema form, look no further than this week’s film Dan in Real Life (DVD/Download). Well-acted, well-written, and with enough charm to rival my favorite pair of fuzzy socks, it’ll put you in a seasonal mood in no time.

Dan in Real Life stars Steve Carell as a widowed advice columnist with three lovely, slightly resentful daughters. He takes his brood up to the family compound in Rhode Island for a weekend of crossword puzzles, pancakes, and chilly walks on the beach, only to be met with glares from his kids, pity from his siblings, and mild reproach from his parents. But then he encounters Juliette Binoche in a charming bookstore meet-cute and they hit it off like gangbusters…. until he realizes she’s already dating his brother. With a wonderful supporting cast including Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Alison Pill, and even Dane Cook in a surprisingly good performance, the movie sparkles with a rare combo of intelligence and sentimentality. I find myself wanting to be a long-lost cousin, visiting their lovely New England home for just a day. Even if it means I have to sleep in the laundry room.

A movie this sweet deserves a perfect Fall cocktail to go with it. There’s nothing that says Autumn quite like spiced apples, so while watching Dan in Real Life, I recommend drinking an Autumn Apple Sipper.

Autumn Apple Sipper

2 oz Dry Hard Cider

1 oz Sweet Retreat Apple Pie Liqueur

1/2 oz Spiced Rum

1 oz Honeycrisp Apple Cider

Pinch of Cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a mug over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.

Steve Carell is the rare comic actor who is equally talented in dramatic roles, and Dan in Real Life is the perfect showcase for both sides of this coin- he’s at once charming and morose, funny and forlorn. I guarantee his rendition of “Let My Love Open the Door” will break your heart, just a little. If you think by now you’ve seen everything this guy can do, plan to be surprised. Cheers!

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Nocturnal Animals

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Nocturnal Animals

Image credit: Nocturnal Animals, 2015

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

I can think of no better phrase to sum up the stunning Tom Ford film Nocturnal Animals (DVD/Download). From the shocking opening credits to the final drink in a hip Los Angeles restaurant, I found myself mesmerized by the visual storytelling. Sometimes hard to watch, but nevertheless hypnotic, this is a film that stays with the viewer long after it’s over.

My confusion and revulsion over the opening sequence (to quote my husband, “What the f*ck are you watching??”) made me wonder what I’d gotten myself into. But then, all became clear as the beautiful people wearing beautiful Tom Ford clothes came on the screen. Amy Adams is cold and distant as the wealthy art gallery owner, startled by a ghost from her past in the form of a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward. The film simultaneously tells the story of their doomed young marriage, and Edward’s reactionary revenge manuscript.  Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming an actor I will watch in just about anything, and he’s perfect as both the fragile writer, and tortured subject of his own story. Aaron Taylor Johnson and cinema MVP Michael Shannon round out the cast in Nocturnal Animals’ movie-within-a-movie, in which every scene of West Texas hell looks like a painting.

Texas is such a strong presence in this film, simultaneously the dangerous setting of Edward’s story and also the real-life setting of his failed marriage. Watching Michael Shannon’s character step over dusty scrub brush is like watching the sheriff in an old John Wayne film. While viewing Nocturnal Animals, I recommend drinking an Old Fashioned Texan.

Old Fashioned Texan

2 oz Red Handed Bourbon (from Treaty Oak distillery in Dripping Springs, TX)

½ oz simple syrup

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Orange peel

Pour bourbon over large ice cubes in a rocks glass, and add the simple syrup and bitters. Stir gently to combine. Run the orange peel over the rim of the glass, and drop in the drink.

Old Fashioned Texan

This film spoke to me not only as a lover of cinema, but as a writer. As Edward says, “If I write it down, it will last forever.” With his manuscript, he’s expelled all of his love and pain and anger onto his alter ego in the story. It’s a very personal tale and also…. not.  I can’t wait to see what Tom Ford has up his perfectly tailored sleeve next because whatever it is, I’ll be there.  Cheers!