Monday, January 21, 2013

Take This Waltz

Directed by Sarah Polley.
2012. Rated R, 116 minutes.
Michelle Williams
Luke Kirby
Seth Rogen
Sarah Silverman
Jennifer Podemski
Diane D’Aquila
Graham Abbey
Vanessa Coelho
Aaron Abrams

When Margot (Williams) meets Daniel (Kirby) during a plane ride home the two hit it off immediately. They even decide to share a cab leaving the airport only to discover they live across the street from one another. Margot also makes it clear they cannot act on their obvious chemistry because she’s married. When we meet her hubby Lou (Rogen), it appears they have a great relationship. However, we soon discover that something is just a bit off. They obviously love each other but the sparks aren’t quite flying anymore. This issue is heightened because Margot is pretty fragile, emotionally. Our heroine flirting with Daniel, becoming more infatuated with him yet still trying to reignite the flames of her marriage ensues.

Despite what you’ve just read, this is no romantic comedy. This is a drama, and certainly qualifies as romantic but there are no easy answers here. That’s how Take This Waltz separates itself from the pack. Intensely told mostly through Margot’s eyes, it’s narrative can be brutal and certainly takes us on an emotional rollercoaster. It also avoids making either of the guys the hero or villain. Lou is not some horrible husband we beg her to leave. He’s a guy who loves his wife very much. Unfortunately for the two of them, they suffer from something a lot of couples do. To oversimplify, because there’s much more to it, when one’s in the mood the other usually is not. At times, Lou seems like Margot’s very best friend. At others, she’s frustrated by him. There are even times when she’s bored with him. Though that last thing is what makes their relationship the most vulnerable, Daniel is no knight in shining armor. He sends mixed signals. After he’s spent all day sweeping her off her feet and has her seemingly ready to give in to her most sinful desires he literally sends her home. He wants to present himself as respectful of her vows, but it makes him seem manipulative.

All of this adds up to us traversing some dark roads with our heroine. It’s not brilliantly torturous to the viewer like Blue Valentine, another movie about a tough marriage starring Michelle Williams, but it’s still pretty raw. This is because we understand she probably won’t completely shake sad feelings no matter which guy she ends up with. As in BV, Williams turns in a tremendous performance. As our suitor, Luke, Kirby is also very good. He doesn’t have the magnetism and sheer movie star quality of Ryan Gosling, Williams’ co-star in BV, but he does have a certain charm about him that works perfectly, here. Surprisingly, Seth Rogen plays it nicely understated. He’s still a goof-ball, but you can tell it’s a silliness once shared with the woman he loves and possibly why they got together in the first place. In small doses, as Lou’s sister, Sarah Silverman is also quite effective.

Things get a little strange over the last 20 minutes. This portion of the movie drags on a bit and it feels like a healthy chunk of it could’ve been left out without changing the movie one iota, and better yet, tightening the story. This includes Silverman’s big scene. I know I just praised her work, but it wasn’t necessarily needed and only serves as a way to get one more shot of Margot crying. The feelings conveyed during this scene are already explicit by the time this little event plays out, making it completely redundant. Speaking of explicit, the other thing that seems forced and over the top is the sudden soft-core adult flick that breaks out during this time. Far be it from me to complain about getting to see Ms. Williams in action, so to speak, but at least part of what happens confuses the matter (or maybe just me) and feels out of place. Further thought reveals what the director was trying to do, but I think the actual ending shows this without the sudden, and unexplained, involvement of other people.

Despite the overdone section near the end of the film, Take This Waltz is very much worth your while if relationship movies interest you in the least. It’s not really concerned with appealing to your carnal desires. Instead, it is more about what these people find sexy and, just as importantly, when they find it that way. And just how important is sex to our relationships? As I said, don’t go looking for the same answers you’ve gotten from other movies.

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