Take This Waltz is a brave attempt to sensitively portray someone falling out of love with their husband and into a different kind of love with someone else. It's full of interesting characters with realistic quirks and foibles, and director Sarah Polley works hard not to force the plot along. The problem is, the pace is so leisurely that very little has happened by the end, and most of the tensions are left unresolved.
There are some very good moments in this film -- protagonist Margot (Michelle Williams) is so terrified of getting lost in airports and missing her connecting flight that she pretends to be disabled so that staff are forced to push her from one place to another in a wheel-chair. Her husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is a cookbook writer who only knows about cooking chicken, so they always eat chicken. Her best friend is an alcoholic on the wagon, and her new love interest is a rickshaw puller. When Margot finally leaves Lou, she does it not to be with Daniel (Luke Kirby) but because she discovers that her husband has been playing a practical joke on her in the shower every day of their married life.
If you're looking for a break from Hollywood fare with its stylised characters, meaningless sex, over-dramatic relationships and unlikely sequences, then Take this Waltz may be the breath of fresh air you are looking for. This is a real film festival type film, and, indeed, it has received accolades from the Hamburg, Hollywood and San Sebastian festivals, as well as from numerous directors' and crtics' societies.
The trouble is -- from my point of view -- there is just not enough happening in the story, and it is not told far enough or the characters explored deeply enough to justify it. It's the film equivalent of sitting in a café listening to someone tell you what starts as quite a passionate story, but which peters out the further it goes. There is no moment of clarity in this film, no turning point, no achievement (or dashing) of initial hope. Margot's life desperately needs something to happen in it, but nothing really does. Also, she desperately needs someone to understand why she ran away, but she never explains it, and no-one guesses it. Despite this, you don't come away with the virtuous feeling of having watched a semi-documentary, because Sarah Polley ensures we get the point by accompanying key moments with tracks like Video Killed the Radio Star and Leonard Cohen's Take This Waltz.
This may be a pivotal film in Polley's development as a director. I hope so. I would like to think that the best is yet to come.
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