Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Sarah Polley
Stars: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman.
Canadian actress Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, Go, etc) has always brought a fierce intelligence and compassion to her sensitive portrayals of wounded and conflicted women, and she brings the same qualities to her films behind the camera as a director interested in personal and very human stories. As a director she makes some interesting and challenging choices. Her debut feature was Away From Her, a touching drama about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Her second feature as director is Take This Waltz, a drama about a woman trapped in a rather boring marriage who decides to take a risk and add a bit of spice to her life. This reflective, beautifully observed and understated film explores themes of infidelity, melancholy, marriage, doubt and desire, but it does so without passing judgement on its characters.
Margot (played by Michelle Williams) is a freelance travel writer who is married to the dependable but boorish Lou (Seth Rogen), who is working on a cookbook on various ways to cook chicken. But Margot has grown a little bored with her married life and desires a bit of excitement. While returning from a trip researching a tourist attraction for an article she meets the handsome and charming Daniel (Luke Kirby), and enjoys a bit of harmless flirting. But when she learns that Daniel is a struggling artist and rickshaw driver who lives just down the road, she eventually gives into temptation. Their discreet affair places a strain on her marriage to Lou, who senses something is wrong. But Margot soon learns that all relationships, no matter how exciting in the beginning, soon settle into a routine, and complacency sets in.
There are a few contrivances and coincidences here that stretch credulity a bit – for instance, how has Margot not noticed Daniel and his rickshaw before now despite him living virtually across the road?
There is one scene at the local swimming pool where a number of women discuss their lives while showering, and their nakedness here is more than just physical, as they are metaphorically baring their souls as well.
The central trio of performances are all solid and find an emotional truth in their flawed characters. Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, etc) continues to impress with the range of her performances, and she again lights up the screen with her natural charm and beauty. Margot is a fully fleshed and three-dimensional character, and Williams brings an emotional truth to her internal struggle. Rogen is also good in a more serious role as the boorish Lou who doesn’t quite understand Margot or her needs, and he finds a more sensitive side to his normally oafish screen persona. And Kirby (Halloween: Resurrection, etc) has plenty of charm and his handsome, boyish looks help explain Margot’s initial attraction. Comic Sarah Silverman displays a vulnerability and pain in a rare serious role as Lou’s erratic alcoholic sister Geraldine.
Take This Waltz is also something of a love letter to Polley’s home town of Toronto, which is shot in vibrant warm colours by cinematographer Luc Montpellier (Tangled, Cell 213, Away From Her, etc). Take This Waltz gets its title from the Leonard Cohen song that inspired Polley while she was writing the script, and which shapes the often melancholy mood of the film. Polley maintains a rather unhurried pace throughout the film that slowly draws us into the lives of these characters. However, much of the dialogue here sounds artificial and stilted.
While it has much to say about modern suburban life and marriage, Take This Waltz may not appeal to everybody.