Anchored by solid performances and some beautiful imagery, Sarah Polley’s newest film, Take This Waltz, nonetheless suffers a bit when taken as a whole. Its parts though… its parts are something to admire, if not love. It’s almost like Blue Valentine‘s younger hipster cousin.
Michelle Williams & Seth Rogen play Margot & Lou, a couple married for 5 years, who have hit the point of comfortably with each other. They make stupid jokes, put on funny voices, have no shame with bathroom activities around each other; but there’s an undercurrent of almost boredom to it. They have no children, and from some conversation early in the film, it would seem Lou is not interested in having any. Seeing Margot play with her niece while Lou later talks about kids as a very unlikely future event says a lot without ever having to have the “why don’t we have children” conversation.
And that’s indicative of much of what is good about this film: the dialogue and actions combining to tell a story beyond what is being literally said. Conversely, that is also a major problem with the film: the times when subtlety and grace are tossed aside for blunt thesis statements and weirdly unnatural line readings. I will admit, I did not much like Luke Kirby in his role as the transgressor on the marriage. His tone just seemed… off the whole time. I didn’t quite see why Margot would think he was anything but a creep. And most of the lines that made me cringe came out of his mouth. Though perhaps his blankness, his unnaturalness, was the point. He exists to be the catalyst, the straw that breaks the marriage’s back. The man who kno- no, wait. That’s Walter White. Anyway…
Problems aside, there are some moments of true beauty in the film. Polley and cinematographer Luc Montpelier capture some gorgeous moments of light and warmth, especially when Margot is by herself. The “magic hour” actually seems magic at times. The use of music is very well done also, especially noticeable when the song “Video Killed The Radio Star” is used to bridge two scenes at different points in the film.
Going back to the performances, Williams pulls off a tricky role here, one that actually had me actively disliking her character for a large portion of the film, until I finally saw what she was and why towards the end. The film’s secret weapon, though, is Seth Rogen. In a role that doesn’t require him to be super funny or anything other than a normal, decent guy, Rogen puts together a wonderfully well-rounded and human performance, one that made me feel genuine heartache for him when it all fell apart. There’s a scene late in the film which is solely his half of a conversation with Margot, all of her words and responses edited out, which plays out almost entirely in Rogen’s eyes and face. It astonished me in its power.
But like I said above, the parts don’t quite add up for me. There’s a distance to chunks of the film which do not play well with the moments of human warmth and emotion, and the weirdly unnatural dialogue choices in some scenes stick out like sore thumbs. Sarah Silverman, of all people, seems to handle the transition between the two the best, when late in the film she offhandedly says, “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some kind of lunatic,” (practically the film’s main theme) and it doesn’t come off as quirky or self-reflective of the film. If you enjoy off-beat and occasionally devastating relationship films, I’d say check Take This Waltz out. It’s worth your time.
Take This Waltz is in theaters in the US 6/29/2012, and is available now in some VOD formats. It is rated R for language, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity.