Take This Waltz (2011)

Take This WaltzWritten and Directed by: Sarah Polley

Setting: Toronto

Margot (Michelle Williams), an aspiring writer, has been married to cookbook author Lou (Seth Rogen) for five years. They have a silly, child-like way of interacting with each other. It is tender and playful, but at the same time, their style of relating to each other is limited. It’s a relationship that desperately needs to grow and mature.

When Margot finds herself falling for Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome artist who seems much more passionate than Lou, she wonders whether to hold on to the security of her marriage or take the leap into a union she might find more fulfilling.

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My reaction to this offbeat, sexy little film was mixed. At first, I was underwhelmed, and I found the writing somewhat uneven. At moments, the dialogue didn’t seem “real,” and I sometimes felt I was drowning in the cloying cuteness and excessive quirkiness of the characters’ conversations. Then I found myself drawn in by the performances, especially by Michelle Williams, and the skillful, gorgeous cinematography. And some of the dialogue was quite good.

While Williams’s performance stood out for me, I was also quite impressed by Rogen. I’d seen him in a few films, and his work here was a tremendous improvement. He didn’t shed the goofy man-child persona that seems to be his stock in trade, but he enriched it and added depth. I could easily understand why Margot loved Lou, and it was equally clear to me why she was dissatisfied with their marriage, longing for growth, deeper communication, and — above all — more passion. Sarah Silverman also stood out as Margot’s sister-in-law Geraldine, a young mother and recovering alcoholic.

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The best part of the movie, for me, was the way it captured Margot’s affection for the men in her life, her frustrated yearning, and her confusion and loneliness. I loved the way it conveyed the mixture of awkwardness and grace, along with the blend of girlish silliness and quiet yearning, in this character. We see both her clinging vulnerability and her efforts to grow and move forward. It’s an interesting snapshot of a woman in her late twenties maturing and navigating some difficult transitions. And it seems right that this film has a bittersweet quality.

I also appreciated the strong sense of place. The film is set in Toronto, and the city is, in itself, a major character in this story. I got a strong feel for an area, populated by quaint shops and streetcars, where I’ve never been, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
This movie is well-crafted and engaging, if somewhat uneven, and it has interesting things to say about love and relationships.

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