Take This Waltz Directed by: Sarah Polley Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 13, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A bored married woman (Williams) struggles with temptation when her neighbor (Kirby) takes an interest in her.
WHO'S IT FOR?: With its marvelous mix of melancholy and visual sweetness, Take This Waltz is for those who enjoy movies that explore different truths about relationships.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew very little of what to expect when I came in, but I was certainly intrigued by the pairing of Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen. Williams hasn't had a bad performance in a while, and it's always curious to see what serious lengths Rogen will go to in a drama.
Michelle Williams as Margot: The camera's amount of sunlight gives her bright yellow skin, and we constantly see her exhibiting a summery red wardrobe. This all, of course, is a contrast to the uncertainty that has made her melancholy within. Without having to scream (Blue Valentine) or try to fully be someone else (My Week with Marilyn), Williams does something really wonderful with this gentle character (it's not just when she rescues her from a Garden State-like introduction). She's not a bleeding heart, because she is too real for that. Margot is a person who simply wants to feel loved and appreciated. Wrestling with these moments, Williams also shows the confusion of temptation as well, leaving us with a presence that is almost uncomfortably true. Score: 8
Seth Rogen as Lou: Unaware of the temptations Margot is toying with behind his back, Lou feels like a simple-minded tool. He even makes interactions comically more awkward with such obliviousness (such as when he invites Daniel to his house for a party). Our assumptions are only half right. The story (along with a tender performance from Rogen) reveals Lou to simply be a different kind of lover to Margot - he is about relationships in portions, and thinks that certain problems will just go away (such as their cold sex life). In his shadows, Rogen provides a memorable depiction of the romantic optimism that has vanished from Margot (and the rest of the story). A chapter in the third act involving the status of Margon and Lou's relationship offers a great moment for Rogen to run through an honest set of emotional reactions to particularly heartbreaking news. Score: 7
Luke Kirby as Daniel: The guy who steals the girl is always slimy. Kirby doesn't try to change that about the kind of man that Daniel is, but he does tempt the audience into questioning just how insincere this guy really is. How much does Daniel really mean the really sweet things he says? How much does he just want to use Margot? Kirby is curiously coy himself with this difficult character whose sincerity constantly remains a mystery. Score: 7
Sarah Silverman as Geraldine: This sister of Lou mirrors the arc of strangeness of Williams' character. When we first meet her, Silverman is goofy, yet in an off-putting way. Though with less attention than that given to Margot, we get a sense of the destructive cycle Geraldine, an alcoholic is stuck in. We especially feel this parallel during Silverman's last moment on-screen, in which she delivers a surly monologue that leaves an impressive performance on the right note. Score: 7
TALKING: In the beginning, the interactions between Margot and Daniel are either too sarcastic or quirky. For example, when Margot is sitting on an airplane, she says "I'm afraid of making connections." Blech. Thankfully, this changes when the flirting between the two gets less cutesy, and simply odd. This makes way for sharp dialogue that rings throughout the entire film, especially when someone provides the thesis of Take This Waltz, "New things get old." Score: 7
SIGHTS: Using candy store saturated colors, Take This Waltz glows brightly like a comedy, and lights such a story with a warm yellow tint that resembles something recently seen in Midnight in Paris or To Rome With Love. That being said, Take This Waltz is simply a pleasure to look at. Score: 9
SOUNDS: The Take This Waltz soundtrack makes very good use of its selection of songs, which are usually by Leonard Cohen. Though his song "Take This Waltz" is used with great effect during a powerful montage, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles leaves a very strong mark on the viewer as it plays audiences out of a jolting conclusion. Further adding to this movie's ironic methods, "Radio Star" speaks hauntingly to the concept that "new things get old." Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The montage that features Leonard Cohen's "Take This Waltz" is a superb short movie in itself, smoothly portraying the evolution of a new couple's living space according to the arc of their relationship.
ENDING: Margot sits in the same ride that she once shared with Daniel, and maybe once with Lou. "Video killed the radio star; video killed the radio star."
QUESTIONS: This is one movie I really wish I could talk to writer/director Polley about. However, I probably wouldn't be asking anything I'd feel comfortable actually sharing with the world.
REWATCHABILITY: Despite the first round being so damn good, I wonder if it could even improve in the second round. This is the type of movie that lingers with you long after, just in one viewing.
We love the movies that take us back to our memories of special intimacy; they win our attention and affection for being so honest. Take This Waltz, a marvelous movie that only sounds like a soapy tale of a bored wife's temptation, goes beyond such limits with its cause to explore a deeper truth. This piercing fable about the cycle of love's happiness speaks to the darkest levels of our cynicism about relationships, in a way that's essentially emotionally squeamish. Though this story is told with possibly too many doses of irony, we can be thankful the bright colors (and even presence of The Buggles) are there to provide bright contrast to the crushing concepts that writer/director Polley raises so personally. In comparison to other similar-looking films, Polley is finishing what recently acclaimed relationship disaster movies like Like Crazy and Blue Valentine didn't fully articulate.
The worst part about Take This Waltz, if you'll forgive the irony, is that it is so beautiful. Williams is nearly perfect in a role that takes advantage of her vulnerability without having to toss her around, and her two male co-leads each provide thick - differing yet eventually similar - depictions of a partner's complacency. An aforementioned scene in which we witness in one consecutive spinning shot the evolution of a couple's furniture layout is just one moment in which beauty and hard truth create something hauntingly impressionable. Polley so eloquently articulates her beliefs against the relationship's basic concepts that she just has to be right.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10