The new film, “Take This Waltz,” explores romantic infatuation and the toxic effect it can have on a seemingly happy marriage. It is writer-director Sarah Polley’s second feature film (her first having been the Oscar-nominated “Away From Her”) in which ambivalence toward one’s mate sets the stage for new beginnings.
Michelle Williams plays Margo, a struggling freelance writer married to Lou (Seth Rogen), who’s writing a cookbook entitled, “It Tastes Like Chicken.” While on a research trip in Nova Scotia, she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome flirt who just happens to be seated next to her on the plane going home. He also just happens to live across the street from her. There are a lot of “just happens” going on in the film.
Immediately, Margot and Daniel engage in witty repartee that evolves into a strong attraction to one another. She lets him in on some personal information about her fears, and we clearly sense where this relationship is headed — and it’s bothersome. Because when we watch Margot interact with Lou, they seem so in love. In many ways, their marriage seems a bit childish, but it’s also very soulful.
Geraldine (the wonderful Sarah Silverman), Margot’s recovering alcoholic sister-in-law, picks up on Margot’s growing affection for Daniel (which Lou never suspects) and dishes out some pearls of wisdom: “Life has a gap in it. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.” But it’s too late for the needed clarity that Margot lacks.
“Take This Waltz” has its flaws but also excels on numerous levels. The cinematography by Luc Montpellier is sumptuous. He plays brilliantly with light: sky lighting, pool lights, amber evening sunsets and multi-hued sunrises. The best is a kaleidoscopic lit scene in which Daniel and Margot are riding The Scrambler at an amusement park. The flashing on the lovers’ faces speaks volumes.
Many scenes are set solely to music. “Video Killed the Radio Star” is the perfect accompaniment to the dizzying ride in The Scrambler. And as Margot and Daniel dreamily dance in a tracking shot to Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz,” the thrust of the film’s message hits home.
I loved Michelle Williams’ doleful, delicate approach in portraying Margot, the woman/child who’s afraid of fear. She possesses a wonderful wistfulness that allows her to play wounded characters so convincingly (i.e. “Wendy and Lucy,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “My Week with Marilyn”). Surprisingly, funny man Seth Rogen holds his own with Williams, exposing a sensitive side audiences rarely witness.
Toward the end, “Take This Waltz” drifts into some decadence that seemed unnecessary, as one of Margot’s friends commented earlier on in the film, “new gets old,” and I began to understand the relevance. Polley appears to subscribe to the notion that sometimes in life we do the wrong thing for all the right reasons.
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