TAKE THIS WALTZ
Margot (Michelle Williams) is happily married to cookbook author Lou (Seth Rogen), and living in a Toronto suburb. On an assignment to write a new pamphlet for a tourist attraction, she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) who happens to be sitting next to her on the plane flying back home, and the turns out to live across the road from her. A spark at their meeting begins to destabilise Margot's innermost feelings. They meet discreetly but are restrained in their affair. Eventually, Lou senses that something's wrong and Margot has to decide what and who she really feels and wants.
Review by Louise Keller:
This reflective, internal film grapples with issues about love, sex and commitment, exploring the notion that life may leave gaps leading to choices that are there for the taking. Sarah Polley's film is yet another wonderful platform for the iridescent talents of Michelle Williams, who has a natural ability to portray thoughts and a tangible mood. It's about marriage in a rut and the flicker that sexual chemistry brings, offering temptation to springboard into a new relationship. While the film's nudity expresses the baring of the soul and there are some revelatory truthful moments, patience is required to take the journey that Polley signposts. The narrative stumbles as does the protagonist as she tries to work out what she wants and what she is prepared to sacrifice, if she wants it badly enough.
In the film's opening scene, Margot (Williams) is baking muffins. She is barefoot and her toenails are painted bright turquoise. The camera lingers on her feet, her legs and then the oven door as she rests her head in idle contemplation, while the baking takes place. A man walks into the kitchen, although we do not know it is her husband Lou (Seth Rogan) until later. Theirs is a playful, loving relationship, albeit not exciting. They play the 'How much do you love me' game whose answers are ludicrous, but they have no conversation when out to dinner. Lou, who is perpetually testing the chicken recipes for the recipe book he is writing, is a dull fixture in the kitchen, while Margot searches to find herself.
When Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), there's chemistry 101. 'I want to know what you do to me,' she asks him, although it is really a rhetorical question. 'Sweetness and f**k,' is how Daniel describes her fragrance as he proceeds to express in words what he would do to her, if she was not married. Restraint is countered by provocation. The pool sequence, when they dive into the water from opposite ends and circle around each other underwater, is beautifully shot, emphasising the private world in which they are fantasising. In a later scene, there is no mistaking the distinctive, gravel tones of Leonard Cohen as he sings the title song, while the camera swirls around and around as Margot and Daniel kiss for the first time, physically discovering each other.
Polley's film is a depiction of uncertainty. We get to know Lou better than Daniel, although we don't really know either of them. It is Margot that we learn about; her fear of airports, making connections and being in-between things is reflected in her relationships. The curious casting of Rogan works surprisingly well and Kirby is perfect as the other man. There's plenty for Sarah Silverman as Lou's alcoholic sister Geraldine to get her teeth into, but the main game is Williams, whose vulnerability, charm and femininity soars.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Take This Waltz is essentially a suburban love triangle, told with undue lack of haste and an uninspiring dramatic flatness that is intended, I suspect, to read as subtlety. To my perhaps insensitive taste, the film is more contrived than convincing. The incongruous sex scenes near the end, including some a trois, are so laboured as to be dull. The only saving grace of this sequence is Leonard Cohen singing the title song over it.
My lack of satisfaction with Take This Waltz is partly driven by my lack of interest in the characters and partly by the filmmaker's choices in everything from the length of scenes to the exaggerated intimacies between Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen); they play silly games with each other like most couples, and one or two examples might have been enough. Both actors are excellent, though, completely trusting writer/director Sarah Polley to bring out the most sensitive and telling performances. Williams' face is a silent talkie, capable of expressing anguish, hurt, playfulness and love in rapid succession.
Rogen jumps into this dramatic role boots and all, and when we end up feeling sorry for him it's a tribute to his skills; the screenplay is not responsible.
There is a miniature subplot involving an alcoholic, which, like the semi-surreal style of the sex scenes referred to above, seems to be added for dramatic effect. Excellent cinematography and a fine score give us some joy, but the themes explored are trite and without cinematic scale.
Polley has been indulged by her producing partner Susan Cavan, but I don't feel indulgent towards Take This Waltz.
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TAKE THIS WALTZ (MA15+)
CAST: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Aaron Abrams, Jennifer Podemski, Vanessa Coelho, Graham Abbey
PRODUCER: Sarah Polley, Susan Cavan
DIRECTOR: Sarah Polley
SCRIPT: Sarah Polley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luc Montpellier
EDITOR: Christopher Donaldson
MUSIC: Jonathan Goldsmith
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Matthew Davies
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 14, 2012