There’s a brilliant aura lighting up the Cineplex right now. It has nothing to do with lycra-tighted superheroes, talking stuffed animals, or animated shenanigans, and more to do with a place where the moon has been sweating in a cry filled with footsteps and sand. Take This Waltz echoes the tragic words of the Leonard Cohen song of the same name and presents us with a moral dilemma stronger than any delivered by the righteousness-choked superhero fare currently tearing up the box office.
The dilemma is that of human desire and the filmmaker is Sarah Polley who has made a movie about how delicious and alluring desire can be and how difficult it is for we human beings to turn our backs on its primal calling. If we’re to believe Polley - and I do – the sensation is stronger, more unavoidable, and certainly more destructive, than even the mightiest of superhero powers.
The coming-of-age story is bookended by beautifully filmed scenes of 20-something Margot (Michelle Williams) baking blueberry muffins in a tiny, claustrophobic Toronto kitchen… discontent hanging over her every move. Something is missing and we eventually learn it’s her husband Lou (Seth Rogen). On the surface their relationship seemed fine. Five years into the marriage they still baby-talk each other, and the silly conversations the couple share – while a bit demented – still display that newlywed cutesiness. But a bristly edge to their comfy coziness surfaces now and again. During these moments, Margot looks lost. Lou appears clueless and confused. The film pauses to catch its breath.
Much of the film examines whether Margot and Lou’s rough patch is a temporary one, or whether the couple have simply outgrown each other as they near the seven-year-itch. For women like Margot, there is a point when they realize the “happily ever after” relationships told in fairytales were all a crock.
Through an unlikely encounter, Margot meets the attractive and single Daniel (Luke Kirby) who recently moved in down the street. Hesitant, but lured by her current state of restlessness, Margot begins to sneak out with Daniel for afternoon drinks or dips in the local community pool. During one such encounter at a nearby restaurant, we experience not only the film’s best scene, but one of the most romantic ever – even though both are fully clothed - as Daniel verbally describes in explicit detail what he’d do to her given the opportunity. The scene is even hotter than the much talked about nude shower scene with Williams and Sarah Silverman. As is most often the case, what we imagine is better than what we see.
There’s a deep humanity that threads its way through Take This Waltz, simultaneously baring both the good and bad of human nature. Williams seizes the opportunity. Some will become annoyed with her selfish Margot who seems unappreciative of what she has in the unfettered companionship of Lou’s kind, loving soul. But Williams’ nuanced performance - driven by the tremendous amount of ambiguity in Polley’s script - is so solid that we can’t help but understand, and even support, her poor choice, even though we know it’s morally wrong. She makes us fall in love with her miserable, unpleasant Margot. Many viewers who left a stagnant relationship will find support for their decision while those who’ve turned their backs to temptation and stayed in a relationship, will likely discover confirmation that they made the right choice. Normally, a filmmaker can’t eat from both sides of a dilemma, but Polley pulls it off by allowing us to bring our own situations into the decision. As a result, the film delivers different outcomes for different viewers.
So, once you’ve treated your children to the latest family-friendly feature and indulged your superhero whims, do yourself a favor and give in to the little film that broke out at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival and is now working it’s way through a platform release and home video download. From its acting Tour de Force (including a wonderful dramatic turn by Seth Rogen), to a steamy script and a mesmerizing soundtrack that seamlessly melds Burton Cummings ditties with The Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star, a song about obsolescence and transitions, everything about this film is near pitch perfect. Much like the haunting lyrics of the Cohen song with which the film shares its name, Take This Waltz knows that shiny new things always get old, just like the old things did.
MPAA Rating: R for language, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity.
Director: Sarah Polley
Writer: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams; Seth Rogen; Luke Kirby; Sarah Silverman
Genre: Comedy | Drama
Tagline: Take This Waltz
Memorable Movie Quote: "No fear at all of actually being on a plane. Just getting from one plane to another. Running. Rushing. Trying to figure it out. The not knowing. Wondering if I'll make it."
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Official Site: www.magpictures.com/takethiswaltz
Release Date: July 13, 2012 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Synopsis: When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When she learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright and colorful like a bowl of fruit, Take This Waltz leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long-term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves. Hide Trailer Details/?fb=yes