The Black Dahlia: Roasted Spring Chicken With Garden Vegetables

Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Mia Kirshner
(R, 121 min.)

"What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?" George Eliot

A for atmosphere and acting, but C for a plot that is as contrived as it is confusing. The notorious and grotesque Black Dahlia murder flashes before us in bits and pieces – excuse the pun – but it is really no more than a backdrop for the cloud of lust and loyalty, duty and obsession that swirls around the interlocking lives of two LAPD detectives and their best gal in the film noir forties.

It starts out well enough in pairing two ex-pugilist cops in an exhibition match, billing them as fire (Aaron Eckhart’s Lee Blanchard) and ice (Josh Hartnett’s Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert). Bucky loses the match as well as his two front teeth, but earns the respect of the guy who busted his chops, with the two becoming partners as well as best friends. Sure of his younger partner’s innocence and resolve, the seasoned Blanchard doesn’t mind sharing his girl, Kay (Scarlett Johansson trying very hard to be a blond bombshell) with Bucky as the three of them form an innocent ménage a trois.

Whether it’s a splendid dinner at the fancy digs Banchard and Kay share, a night at the movies, or sipping champagne on New Year’s Eve, the three are one big happy family, Then Bucky’s resistance to temptation is firmly cemented when his partner saves his life during a surprise shoot out, and even Kay’s heart shaped lips, her seductive smile, or the billows of cigarette smoke that emanate from the sleek black holder that she uses like a Geisha’s fan fail to ensnare Bucky.

But then the Dahlia turns up, and Blanchard becomes obsessed with the lurid case, the mutilated body of a would be starlet, sawed in half, eviscerated, her lips cut from side to side in a smile that mocked even in death, while stalwart Bucky soldiers on trying to tie some clues together. And here’s where the film begins to lose its focus. First of all, there is at least one too many femme fatales for my liking, as though the film is trying to make up for in quantity the depth that it should develop in one of them. For instance, just when we become intrigued with the old audition tapes of the victim, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) - a dark haired beauty with coltish eyes both innocent and alluring - they drag in the next damsel, but this one is not in distress, to say the least.

It’s outside a lesbian bar, a rumored haunt of the late Elizabeth, where Bucky meets Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank vamping it up), a rich girl slumming, and one who looks ever so much like the dead dahlia, at least that’s what the script keeps repeating like catechism, but to me, there’s very little resemblance between the doe-eyed Elizabeth and the angular heiress. And boy scout Bucky’s sudden entanglement with the Dahlia wanna be, a relationship that strains his professional and personal integrity, is a bit out of character.

But I guess he has to advance the now ever more complex plot, which is like a soup that doesn’t quite make it, so the hapless cook is forced to add salt and then in desperation a French name. Madeleine’s family is as eccentric as they are rich, and I for one actually enjoyed the over the top portrayal of her mother Ramona, an arrogantly pathetic dipsomaniac played with relish by the fine Fiona Shaw, who seems to draw on the more diabolical instincts of her past Medea portrayal, filling the screen with a repulsive magnetism from which we cannot look away.

And perhaps that phrase - repulsive magnetism - best fits this reproduction film noir all wrapped up in glints of sunshine and shade streaming through smoked filled sepia. The seductresses assume an innocence to tease and torment our square-jawed heroes; they dance around our hearts and minds in a deadly tango whose steps become too hard to follow, losing both their partners and us somewhere along the way.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

For one night a week, at least, Blanchard, Bucky, and Kay, pretend that the dangerous world can be kept at bay as the sunshine streams in from the curtained windows and dances through the shining crystal at their well-appointed dining room table. 

And Kay is one broad that is not just a looker. This babe can cook, and her fare is as wholesome as she would like to be - roasted chicken capped off with fresh garden herbs and bathed in wine sautéed veggies. 

Lift your glass and pretend with them that the world this night is a safe place for you and yours.

Roasted Spring Chicken With Garden Vegetables

Spring Chicken

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

  • 1/8 cup honey

  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme

  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 11/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 whole chickens (21/2 to 3 pounds each)

  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix lemon juice, honey, herbs, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Wash and dry chickens and liberally season insides with salt and pepper. Truss chickens, then brush with lemon-herb mixture. Place on a roasting rack in a pan and cook in oven for about 1 hour (check for doneness after 50 minutes by moving the leg and thigh joints; they should be loose and move easily).

Allow chickens to rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then split in half. Remove each rib cage (it should pull out easily). Cut legs and thighs from breasts, then separate legs and thighs.

Garden Vegetables

  • 12 to 18 baby zucchini squash

  • 12 to 18 pattypan squash

  • 18 to 24 small new potatoes

  • 4 Roma tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)

While chickens are roasting, slice zucchini lengthwise 3 or 4 times, leaving stem end intact, to create a fan. Cut pattypans in half through stem. Quarter potatoes and blanch until almost done, 5 to 8 minutes. Quarter tomatoes and remove pulp, then julienne. Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat; add squash and allow to caramelize slightly; then add potatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and stock and cook until heated through. Add wine, then season to taste and finish with butter if desired.

To serve, arrange vegetables and pieces of chicken attractively on each plate. Serves 4 to 6.

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