Movie Review: Take This Waltz
A hot Canadian summer in Toronto heats up even more when a young woman finds herself attracted to her neighbor. A seemingly innocent scenario but the girl is married, and happily so, for nearly five years. Filmmaker Sarah Polley, renowned in her homeland Canada, brings a titillating theme to the forefront in her script for Take This Waltz – once the happily ever after happens, do relationships always remain fulfilled and loyal?
Polley is known for her thoughtful and charming takes on the vagaries of life. From child actress to political activist to award-winning actor, Polley has emerged as a strong voice in the Canadian film circuit along with Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar and David Cronenberg, known for their independent vision of the world. In 2006, she directed Away From Her; based on Canadian author Alice Munro’s story, The Bear Came Over The Mountain, starring Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer’s, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that year and was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Take This Waltz also had its world premiere at TIFF in 2011; it has been available on Pay on Demand television and will have a limited US release from June 29.
It stars Dawson Creek’s Michelle Williams as Margot and native Canadian, Seth Rogen in an unusually serious role as Williams’ dependable husband, Lou. This is a definite departure from Mr Rogen’s usual acting style of the perfect geek (remember him in Knocked Up). Margot, a part-time writer, meets artist Daniel (Luke Kirby), and the mutual chemistry between them is intense; the serendipitous coincidence of his being her neighbour adds to her dilemma. She describes it as “a kind of longing, a kind of idiotic, marvelous, ridiculous longing,” for which she has no explanation. While the plotline flows quietly as she asses her situation, the viewer wonders whether she will give in to temptation or not.
Take this Waltz borrows its name from a song by iconic Canadian singer/songwriter, Leonard Cohen, whose darkly intense romantic, often heartbreaking lyrics frequently traverse themes of sexuality – songs like I’m Your Man and You Have Loved Enough and Waiting for a Miracle.
Polley adds an authentic Toronto aesthetic to her film, locating it in the heart of the downtown area, in Little Portugal, near Little Italy and before the University of Toronto, where Victorian semi-detached town houses line street upon street. The area also incorporates the culturally active and hip Queen St. West neighbourhood, a Mecca for 20-something liberal bohemians such as Margot and Lou. Lou is a food writer and spends his time perfecting ‘chicken’ recipes hoping to get published soon. Margot does the odd writing assignment, and Daniel, the painter, drives a cycle-rickshaw in the evening hours to pay his rent.
Margot is a whimsical character and her personality can be considered a little too self-indulgent. She often veers towards melancholy and her consistent self-absorption is off-putting. While Polley’s minute exploration of Margot’s conundrum is not riddled with clichés, it is too concentrated. “I thought of it as a kind of struggle between her selfish side, her pleasurable side, and her moral side,” said Williams recently at a special screening in New York City. But, one of the best one liners comes from Lou’s sister (Sarah Silverman), a quirky, ex-alcoholic: “Life has a gap in it, it just does, you don’t go crazy trying to fill it.”
This article was originally published in the July issue of Newsline.
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