Review: Take This Waltz

Directed by: Sarah Polley
Written by:Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Aaron Abrams, Jennifer Podemski
Released: June 14, 2012
Grade: A

Take This Waltz
I saw 30 films at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and my favourite was a lightweight romantic drama starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen.  Before you start rolling your eyes, give me a chance to defend my unexpected choice.  I’d like to put forward two key reasons.

Firstly, the story revolves around a fascinating character.  Margot is bright 28-year-old woman but she is also incredibly fragile and insecure.  There’s a moment early in the film where she’s visiting a colonial theme park and gets picked out from the crowd to be part of a show.  Margot is terrifyingly reluctant (you can see the look in her eyes) but eventually lets her guard down and enjoys the moment.  When a bystander makes a wisecrack, she quickly reverts back into her shell and scurries away.

This is Margot is a nutshell.  To borrow the lyrics from a Katy Perry song – “you’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes than you’re no, you’re in then you’re out, you’re up then you’re down.”  She’s an emotional rollercoaster – one minute she looks like she wants to cry and the next minute she can’t stop laughing.

I realise that Margot’s muddled personality will infuriate some filmgoers but I loved her complexity. Michelle Williams brings the character to life with her finest performance yet (and yes, I've seen Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine).

Williams was the strongest part of My Week With Marilyn (released back in February) but she received no help from the stuffy, disappointing script.  That’s not the case here... which leads me to the second reason why Take This Waltz won me over – the level-headed screenplay from writer-director Sarah Polley (Away From Her).

Margot is happily married and lives a simple life with her husband, Lou (Rogen).  With much experience in the kitchen, he’s working on a chicken cookbook with the hopes of getting its published.  Lou is a nice, sweet guy.  There’s nothing wrong with him and the two seem perfect for each other.  You’ll get a clear sense of that as you listen to some of their silly conversations.  They share a particularly cute moment on the couch while Lou’s on the phone to his editor.

Through a serendipitous encounter (as it tends to be in the movies), Margot befriends a single guy who has moved into their street.  His name is Daniel (Kirby) and he is not shy with his affections.  Seizing on her “permanently restless” disposition, he convinces Margot to sneak out with him for an afternoon drink.  In the film’s best scene, Daniel then describes in explicit detail what he’d do to her if he had the chance.

We’ve see plenty of films where a man/woman cheats on their partner and they often cover familiar territory.  I enjoyed this particular scenario however because it finds an extra few layers of complication.  For starters, both guys are likeable.  This goes against traditional formulas where one suitor is portrayed as a schmuck to make the choice for the audience really easy.

Without giving anything away, the ending will leave you humming the lyrics to the 1979 hit song Video Killed The Radio Star.  More importantly, it will also provide you with food for thought.  You can dissect all three characters and decide if you’d have acted the same way if standing in their shoes.  There’ll be varying points of view and Polly isn’t trying to offer a “one size fits all” answer.

Following the Toronto Film Festival, I expressed my hope that the movie would get a cinematic release in Australia.  It’s taken nine months but my wish has been granted.  Don’t miss it.

Take This Waltz Premiere
Sarah Polley, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen at the world premiere of Take This Waltz.