Sunday, July 22, 2012

Take This Waltz (2012)


What is new and exotic today will eventually, albeit incrementally, morph into routine.  Superficially, this applies to the latest products such as vehicles and electronics, but dig a little deeper, and it concerns people.  Every now and then, you will meet a person you just connect with.  Your wits match, you laugh at the same things, they are outrageously attractive, and you abhor the thought of saying goodbye at the end of the day and going your separate ways.  What compounds this situation and serves as the basis for an outstanding film is, perhaps one of the two people who are magnetically drawn together is already married.

Margot (Michelle Williams) is one of those freelance writers who frequently says she wants to be a writer, but she has not started yet.  In the meantime, she travels to Nova Scotia to write an update to the official pamphlet for a colonial era village.  While there, she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) who has coincidentally journeyed to the island to sketch and paint.  Why the coincidence?  They happen to live across the street from one another back in Ontario.  Immediately straining credibility limits, Take This Waltz begins on thin ice but very quickly settles down into an entirely engrossing and mesmerizing feature.  

Margot and Daniel verbally spar with one another but keep finding ways to bump into one another around town.  All of this would be much easier on everyone's guilty feelings if Michelle's husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), was never around or ignored his wife, or was just unpleasant in some overt way.  However, Lou is a genuinely nice guy who loves his wife and their situation together.  Michelle and Lou have been married for five years, live in a quaint house, and play funny games when the alarm goes off in the morning about who loves the other one more.  Lou cooks most of the day because he writing a cookbook all about chicken; this sounds contrived but it works because the audience has never seen it before.  Lou's sister, Geraldine (Sarah Silverman), also pops on screen every now and again as Michelle's friend and to carry a small sub-plot as a recovering alcoholic.

Sarah Polley's previous film, the wonderful Away From Her (2006), was about a very hard subject, the onset of Alzheimer's disease in one partner and their institutionalization.  At first, the audience assumes Take This Waltz is a break from such weighty subjects and will be a much lighter affair, maybe even a romantic comedy.  Oh, but don't be fooled.  This film is just as dramatic and heavy.  Michelle Williams spends an unusual amount of time in tears.  She truly loves her husband and is happy with their lot in life.  She cannot conceive of deliberately hurting him.  But Daniel just may be her soul mate, if there is such a thing.  Their conversations together are profound and meaningful.  Every member of the audience will walk out of the theater talking about the scene between Margot and Daniel while they are having martinis.  Sarah Polley wrote a very strong screenplay and the dialogue creates scenes of immense magnitude and feeling even though there are just two people chatting over a small table.  

This is also a strong cast for what is obviously a very low budget independent film.  It is good to know talent still gravitates towards quality.  Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman are some very noticeable names when they appear on a movie poster and stand out even more when they are attached to such a small film effort.  As for Williams, this was a much better showcase for her talent than last year's My Week with Marilyn, even though she was nominated for an Academy Award for that.  In fact, her performance here blows that one out of the water.  

Do yourself a favor and seek out this film.  It will most likely be hard to find, but it contains some of the strongest acting, creative writing, and enjoyable filmmaking of the year so far.  If not for the clunky meeting in the beginning and an overly long and choppy coda at the end, Take This Waltz was almost perfect.  Bravo Sarah Polley.

1 comment:

  1. Good review Charlie. What Polley did with this story really took me by surprise and even though I didn't really enjoy the first hour, maybe as much as I would have liked, after that, it becomes clear what this story is all about and that's when it started to hit me. Great performances from the whole cast, especially Rogen who shows he can be dramatic without over-acting.