Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby
Running time: 116minutes
Synopsis: Margot (Williams) is lost in life and dissatisfied with her marriage to husband Lou (Rogen), and a chance encounter with artist neighbour Daniel (Kirby) leaves her contemplating an affair…
When the trailer for TAKE THIS WALTZ was released, THN got an indie itch that needed scratching. Not only did the subject matter send our angst-o-meter off the chart, but there were many intriguing elements that drew us inexorably to the film. The last few years have seen Michelle Williams’ career soar, and THN wanted to see how the actress had shed the puppy fat of her formative DAWSON’S CREEK days to become an Oscar-nominated actress. Also THN is a sucker for comic actors playing it straight (à la Carey in THE TRUMAN SHOW, Ferrell in STRANGER THAN FICTION) so we were curious to see Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman stepping away from their comedy roots into something a little more sincere. Not only that, but actress Sarah Polley (DAWN OF THE DEAD) has proved herself to be prolific in all facets of the filmmaking – writing and directing here – so THN just had to check out this young auteur’s latest work.
Fortunately, TAKE THIS WALTZ is a brilliant study of feeling jaded in love, simultaneously exploring two sides of relationships: the joyous tingle and excitement of love at first sight and the horrible heavy guilt at a relationship’s end. Whilst Polley’s script wears its heart on its sleeve – constantly focused on the core themes – the central performers do a fantastic job of evoking the emotional highs and lows of our love lives. Although Rogen hasn’t moved too far from his sweet/funny shtick, it’s refreshing to see him in a different type of film and he works very well as the ‘nice guy’ husband. Together, he and Williams are spot on in their roles and depiction of a failing marriage: their cutesy play and sappy pet names are just a brittle veneer, barely concealing Margot’s discontent and Lou’s inability to act. Though it makes for uncomfortable viewing, it remains compelling, posing the ultimate question of whether things will work out.
Consequently, TAKE THIS WALTZ is a bi-polar roller-coaster ride, and whilst viewers will lament the flagging marriage, they will also revel in the prospect of new love. When Margot meets shy artist Daniel (Kirby), their attraction is tangible and the happenstance that he is her new neighbour makes their flirtations and potential adultery unavoidable. Their exchanges are highly charged, and will keep viewers guessing with the ‘will they/won’t they’ hook.
What TAKE THIS WALTZ does so well is to place the audience in this awkward scenario; we relate to all characters and their emotions, fears, and conflicts. We understand their motivations and as such never dislike them, although their actions are morally questionable. Like all good indies, this film doesn’t judge but merely observes and Polley reassures us with a liberal ethos of ‘go with your heart‘ but as the film ends with a painful twist of the knife, she tacks on a warning of ‘be prepared to stick by your decision as new things get old too’.
TAKE THIS WALTZ is an emotive, human story; it engages with feelings of desire, regret, and alienation, which should resonate with us all. Visually, the film looks great; the suburbia setting, hot summer nights, and tiki-lit parties create a rich atmosphere filled with character. It’s idyllic and romantic, making the film all the more poignant, and though it deals with grueling, emotional decisions, reamins breezy and fun, even throwing in a few gags (Terry the Aqua-robics instructor is hilarious).
However, it won’t be to everybody’s taste; it’s sweet but ultimately melancholy. For those who enjoy indulging in despair, it’s a must see (on the same scale as ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND, just without the camera trickery). Polley’s script captures all the nuances of relationships, presenting fully-formed characters which are excellently played by a great cast. And for the most part Polley directs well, with a few minor missteps: Rogen’s teary to-camera speech near the end is too choppy to have any emotional clout and the relationship rotation shot is comically odd and out of place – but the intentions are clear. TAKE THIS WALTZ is a heartfelt exploration of the tough decisions we make in games of love; it’s cathartic cinema, and though it may leave you with feelings of loss and regret, it’s a must see if you’re a fan of weepy chick-flicks. One last word of advice: DO NOT see this film if you have any doubts about your current relationship AND this is certainly not a date movie. Aside from that – bring a hanky and enjoy…