Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz is a simple film about a complicated woman struggling through a messy love triangle. It’s straightforward, smart, and, much like Polley’s first film, Away From Her, completely authentic.
The woman in question is Margot, played expertly by Michelle Williams, an actress who, at this point, has no idea how to deliver a less-than-stellar performance. Margot is a woman of many fears, paranoias and eccentricities, and while none of this is presented outwardly (Williams’ performance is, for the most part, pleasantly restrained), we’re witness to Margot being told more than once that she behaves like a child. Baby voices, using the word “gay” as a substitute for “stupid,” comic ploys for attention – things like that.
I mention this because the way Margot acts is a lot of what Take This Waltz is about. Her behaviors appear to slowly be wearing her marriage to Lou (Seth Rogen) thin. Lou is a nice guy, he cooks, cleans, hosts – but he does it all based around whatever mood his wife happens to be in at any given minute. She’s happy, she’s sad, she’s sexual, she’s reserved. For five years, we get the sense that Lou has done whatever he can to keep up, but when we meet him, things have gotten old.
Enter Daniel (Luke Kirby, so good in HBO’s short lived Tell Me You Love Me), Margot and Lou’s handsome, single neighbor who takes a shine to Margot the second they meet. Daniel is the type of guy who always says the right thing. He’s smart, charming, assuming, and full of masculinity. He ignites a curiosity in Margot that hasn’t been lit in years.
Thankfully for us, Polley is too smart and unusual to have her film play out like a melodramatic soap opera. Yes, Margot is plagued with thoughts of leaving her husband for Daniel, but because Margot is so perfectly written, we’re never quite sure what she’s thinking, let alone how she is going to respond to lingering moments of temptation.
Now a question: Can the final minutes of a movie completely ruin what you’ve seen before? To be clear (and spoiler free), Take This Waltz is real. It doesn’t shy away from the frankness and pain that many relationships carry with them. And it also isn’t afraid to unveil the mind of the married woman. There is a scene in this film in which Margot, Lou’s sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) and another one of their friends are showering at the gym. They talk about their marriages, their hairy legs, and their need for misdeed, and they do it completely naked. Now, during their conversation, Polley ingeniously, continually, cuts to the other end of the shower, in which three older women, also naked, are bathing. What Polley is saying, with her camerawork, editing, and then script, is that new things get old, too. It is a remarkable scene of fearlessness for everyone involved, one of many scenes that should make the picture great.
|Polley on the set of Take This Waltz|
Truth is, Take This Waltz has a perfect stopping place. Stories are resolved, the film fades to black, and the credits should start to roll. Instead, Polley keeps going, in what has to be some of the most superfluous, unnecessary filmmaking stuck in a very good film to come along in a great while. The closing scenes begin with an extended sequence in which a camera circles a giant living room in the vein of Charles Foster Kane’s kitchen. It keeps going. And going. And going. Once that scene is done, the movie just… doesn’t, fucking, end. I sat stupefied by what I was seeing and how blatantly needless it all was.
Had Take This Waltz rolled the credits a little earlier, I’d go as far as to say that it’d be a contender for one of the better films of 2012, but it’s final minutes drag it down to the point of bafflement. The film isn’t ruined, it’s just laughed at and forgotten. B-