Take This Waltz (Canada/Spain/Japan; 116 min.)

directed by:
Sarah Polley
starring: Michelle Williams; Luke Kirby; Seth Rogen; Sarah Silverman; Jennifer Podemski; Diane D'Aquila
Take This Waltz

Bruce says: "TAKE THIS WALTZ will have more impact for those who have not seen Michelle Williams in BLUE VALENTINE or WENDY AND LUCY. In all of these films she plays young women in search of something undefinable and illusive. That state of mind is difficult to portray and Williams does it admirably. The fact remains that it is hard to get inside a character’s head when the character herself does not understand what’s going on. TAKE THIS WALTZ is bittersweet one moment and absolutely depressing the next.

"Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) are happily married from a distanced eye. A closer look reveals their relationship is based on infantile games some of which reveal an undercurrent of hidden hostility. He writes chicken cookbooks and she updates travel brochures for government agencies. Their house is charming and cozy in a retro sort of way, harking back to the thirties and forties.

"The film opens at Louisbourg, a reproduction of a famous settlement on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Margot is on assignment. During a reenactment of a public flogging, she is pulled from a group of gawking tourists to participate in the event. Afterwards she makes a quick retreat while locking gazes with a young man in the group. Next, he is sitting in the adjacent seat on the plane home. She stares at him while he sleeps and he catches her at it. Back in Toronto they share a cab and discover they live across the street from one another. His name is Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist and rickshaw operator. Before long the two are running into one another on a regular basis. Lou meets him as he and Margot are going out to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Their anniversary meal is enveloped in silence. Lou finds that natural for a married couple; Margot does not.

"Lou and Margot entertain regularly using family and friends to provide feedback on Lou’s culinary experiments. At such events there is as much drinking as eating. Lou’s sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is a recovering alcoholic and finds these gatherings difficult to handle. Her young daughter Tony is fond of Aunt Margot and Uncle Lou.

"Daniel decides to take a more direct approach with Margot and one afternoon describes his sexual fantasies involving the two of them. She bolts. But she meets him again and things begin to smolder. Will Daniel rescue her from the ennui? The most telling scene in the film is between Margot and Geraldine. Geraldine slips off the wagon and goes missing. Margot is there to console Tony when Geraldine returns in a car followed by the police. Geraldine acknowledges her own transgressions but calls Margot to task for hers. It is a wonderful moment.

"Sarah Polley gets amazing performances from her actors. Her visual choices are also amazing. One sequence, indicating the passage of time begins with an empty loft. The camera swirls ‘round and ‘round with the room changing considerably with each revolution. Not since the video of Billy Joel’s 'We Didn’t Start the Fire,' has the passage of time been so visually effective. In the final analysis, TAKE THIS WALTZ is both stimulating and disheartening. 4 cats"

Jason says:  "It took me some time before I decided what, exactly, the end of Take This Waltz meant to me, even though writer/director Sarah Polley probably couldn't be much more clear.  It's a movie that has every chance to be very frustrating, but is executed so well that it becomes sadly beautiful.

"The story centers on Margot (Michelle Williams), a copy writer who, while on a research trip, meets a charming guy and winds up sitting next to him on the flight home.  It would just be a harmless flirtation that ends there, except that it turns out that Daniel (Luke Kirby) lives right across the street, and Margot is married.  Her husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is as good a man as they come and his sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is one of Margot's best friends, but Daniel is a temptation she may not be able to resist.

"Much of the time, where Polley is going with this seems pretty clear.  Margot speaks early on about being afraid of being caught 'in-between', and a lot of her banter with Lou lapses into a sort of playful baby talk; the implication seems to be that she's still got a fair amount of growing up to do - a lot of growing up, if you take one of the more memorable scenes as being part of that metaphor.  The natural course of events is that her eventually choosing Lou or Daniel will demonstrate some sort of new-found maturity, but what makes the movie interesting, especially in its last act, is that the characters don't quite fit together that way without some puzzle pieces being left over.

"Based on all that, Margot could easily be a very annoying, off-putting character, and it's kind of a a wonder that Michelle Williams makes her so intriguing.  She's good at playing things that are meant to be obviously indicative of something bigger as normal, so Margot's cutesy interactions with Lou are just as much personality as symbol.  Williams also keeps a layer of fear and guilt very close to the surface, enough so that it's compelling to watch that and her more joyful impulses push at each other.

"Seth Rogen makes an impressive foil for her; as much as his job is often to be the guy whose relationship to Margot is simple as opposed to Daniel's complexity, he makes that simplicity something beautiful.  He's very funny and just as solid and charming.  Luke Kirby does a good job of being a contrast to Rogen, giving an impression of being more challenging, if not quite so solid.  Sarah Silverman does a very nice job in a part that could be a disaster.

"Polley does a lot of things that are impressively assured.  Even the more serious moments show bits of creativity and whimsy, the sort of detail that makes a movie feel real.  The movie has life, forward motion, and an understanding of life outside the filmmaker's own experience that a lot of its "young people figuring adult relationships out" contemporaries lack, perhaps the result of Polley making grown-up movies from an age when others weren't yet watching them and absorbing what works.  She does go to songs-as-underscore a bit often, but at least in one case she makes it work exceptionally well to show the passage of time.  She handles a potentially problematic last act very well, too, making what could feel like a movie dragging on after its climax or empty ambiguity into something interesting.

"There's a lot of times when TAKE THIS WALTZ could go off the rails, but Sarah Polley tends to go for straightforward and heartfelt rather than trying to sell detachment as sophistication.  It can come across as a little simplistic, but Polley does unusually well using that to connect the audience to her characters.  4.5+ cats

"Seen 12 July 2012 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, 35mm)"

Michael responds:  "Jay - I am so impressed with this review, and your summing up almost exactly the way I feel about this film as well.  And I have the added benefit of having some very personal, emotional connections to the story.  This film has been generating very divergent reactions from both Chlotrudis members and professional reviewers alike, but for me it is a remarkable achievement.  As a filmmaker, Sarah Polley has a confident and assured eye, lacing her serious examinations of relationships with, as Jason described, creativity and whimsy.

"TAKE THIS WALTZ is still playing at the Kendall Square Cinema, and I highly recommend you see it to determine for yourself where you will fall on the spectrum.  5 cats"

Scot responds:  "I'm surprised and happy that you had such a positive reaction to TAKE THIS WALTZ, Jay. I saw it in P-town and was floored by its impact on me. But I know that others will certainly not feel the same. It's an intensely personal film. Personal for the director, and I contend the actors as well. There is a lot of realness going on in this film and the responsiveness between the performers is palpable.

"I get the criticisms I've heard from intelligent film viewers: there are multiple "endings" to the film, the Sarah Silverman character is added for plot motivation, etc. You're all right about those things. Still, there is an essential truth to this film that my heart must give 5 cats.

"Oh, and if you haven't seen it ... the 'scrambler' scene is worth the price of admission. A true cinematic treasure."

Toni says:  "Sarah Silverman's performance as Geraldine was the best performance in
my opinion in the film and I am not a fan of her work or her comedy, including the pool scene and in one of the powerful final scenes of the film.

"I think the concept of Take This Waltz might work better as a 20-minute short film since there is a large amount of time where not that much happens to to build on the other characters in the film beyond just on the obsession part of the story and confusion of 2 of the characters. The film was very slow paced in the beginning and I could see it losing some of it's audience in that time.

"I didn't feel much sympathy for several of the characters or feelings at all, especially the main character, Margot (Michelle Williams) who reminded of me of Scarlett Johansson's role in LOST IN TRANSLATION which also was that 20 to 30 something girl that is bored with life.

"However, I do think Sarah Polley as a director was aware of in this in her choices of the cycle of the film from start to finish although the film seemed have multiple endings for the viewer. The film had nice symmetry to it in scenes (matching tooth brushing/bathroom scenes in the beginning and in the end for example).

"While I think the film had its charms and some brilliant moments, I can't say I that loved this film. It just didn't speak to me but yet I think it is worth seeing and would be a good discussion film but a horrible 'date' movie (a la BLUE VALENTINE). I do like it's dreary view on the reality of the longevity of marriage between two people which was as a detailed drama was tough to tackle in a sense but as a feature film was a bit hollow.  3.25 cats

"(Seen as an Amazon On Demand Theatrical Rental)"

Chris says:  "Yes, you could sum up this film’s plot in a sentence or two: while on a trip to Nova Scotia by herself, Margot (Michelle Williams) meets and falls for mysterious stranger Daniel (Luke Kirby), only to discover when she returns home to Toronto that he lives across the street from her. From there, she spends most of the film struggling to reconcile a desire to act on her feelings for Daniel with those she has for her husband of five years, Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer.

"While infidelity, temptation and the other man/woman are subjects older than the movies themselves, writer/director Sarah Polley approaches them with a fresh perspective. She’s wise enough not to paint everything in black and white—her characters’ nuances make the film’s central conflict seem more riveting and confounding than it first appears. Margot, a writer herself, comes off as contemplative and thoughtful, but just as often she’s needy and insecure. Lou is a good guy—perhaps a little oblivious, but loyal and loving to a degree where we easily comprehend what Margot sees in him. Yet, as with any long-term relationship, theirs is prone to moments of tedium and overfamiliarity. Once Margot meets Daniel, who offers her a new, exciting alternative, she finds it more difficult to overlook her boredom with Lou or keep herself from commiserating with Daniel, given the latter’s proximity.

"Williams portrays Margot with an intuitiveness and understatement that Polley, a veteran actress herself likely would have brought to the part. She aptly conveys the emotional roller coaster her character goes through, making her more sympathetic than she was in the similarly themed BLUE VALENTINE. As Lou’s alcoholic sister, Sarah Silverman proves she’s capable of playing something other than a smart-ass comedienne. Rogen also shows how deftly he can handle a dramatic role, especially one that puts his teddy bear-ness to good use. If the film has a notable flaw, it’s that Daniel, a budding artist who apparently makes a living as a human rickshaw is a bit of a cipher, someone too-good-to-be-true whose past we know little about. Still, that’s no fault of the handsome, amiable Kirby, whose chemistry with Williams immediately sizzles.

"This is Polley’s second feature after the excellent AWAY FROM HER. Here, she further establishes a singular, personal viewpoint as a director. You can sense it in the assured rhythm in which she moves between scenes, letting the action unfold in seemingly mundane (but occasionally profound) conversations. She lovingly depicts Toronto as a crazy quilt of colorful, distinct neighborhoods. She scores her most striking, euphorically emotional scene to an unlikely pop song whose lyrics strangely but impeccably complement the narrative. When a moment arrives that could suitably work as a conclusion, she boldly goes on for another twenty minutes, throwing everything into disarray before closing on a bitterly honest note of resignation that marvelously drives home the film’s point: we must ultimately live with the decisions we make, no matter how difficult or distressing they are.  5 cats

"(This film screened at the 2012 Provincetown International Film Festival; it is currently playing theaters and available on VOD)"

Thom says:  "Because I thought AWAY FROM HER was a great film and feel Sarah Polley is also a must-see actor I was really looking forward to seeing this, although the story isn't my favorite genre by a long shot. But then, there was the presence of Michelle Williams, who at the pinnacle of her career, is giving us one great performance after another. Fresh off her huge success portraying Marilyn Monroe in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN where she brought us a real portrayal as opposed to a caricature, as many actors tend to do. She's not really a beautiful woman but as Monroe she definitely projected beauty with raw talent. Here she plays Margot, a happily married woman who meets Daniel (a very memorable Luke Kirby) cute on some travel writing assignment when he encourages her to whip some miscreant at a theme park when she is picked out of the audience. Coincidentally they end up taking the same airplane back home & even sit in the same row. He finds it peculiar that she enters the airplane in a wheelchair because of some phobia. Finally, it ends up that they live across the street from one another. While Margot who appears to be perfectly happy with her sweet, chicken cookbook-writing hubby Lou (Seth Rogen). But Daniel's persistence in wooing her eventually pays off through many stop/starts. Sarah Silverman also stands out as Lou's alcoholic sister. What raises this far above the simple theme, besides the spot-on acting headed by the glowing Williams, is a remarkable amalgam of characterization, images, and sounds that makes for delight from first to last. Generally I put up with sound tracks unless they feature Sigur Ros or Jonsi but TAKE THIS WALTZ features one of the best song to image I've ever seen with VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR by The Buggles on the sound track while at first Margot & Daniel in a whirl-a-gig in an amusement park and then late in the film with Margot alone in the whirl-a-gig. I was transported to an entirely different plane. 5 cats"

Hilary says:  "Judging from the posted reviews, apparently I have a three-sizes-too-small Grinch heart because I was unmoved by TAKE THIS WALTZ. On the one hand, I was relieved as I was expecting BLUE VALENTINE-level emotional devastation. However, it just solidified my suspicion that precious hipster romance is not my genre.

"I realize this is violates one of the basic tenants of Chlotrudis -- Sarah Polley devotion -- but I'm putting it out there. Sorry."

Scot responds:  "Hahaha, that's funny, Hilary. When we saw this, I totally realized that while I loved it, it's going to be problematic for many people for a lot of different reasons -- structural, emotional, moral, and sure, precious-hipsteral.

"Still think it's worth a looksee for anyone on the fence who hasn't watched it yet"

Diane says:  "I saw TAKE THIS WALTZ and ANNA KARENINA on consecutive nights. Both about a woman torn between a sweet, boring husband and a hot new guy. The adulteress (I think that old-fashioned word suits?) is disdained by fellow opera-goers in one, and by her alcoholic sister-in-law in the other. I preferred TTW: it conveyed the mundane reality that you are still left with yourself, in a heart-piercing way. AK did not involve me emotionally.

"I did want to offer kudos to director Polley for the variety of women's naked bodies displayed in the pool shower scene."

Julie responds:  "I agree, the left with yourself aspect was what made it very powerful - there were a montage of scenes in there with her "hot guy" that I was like what ?  if they pulled those out or at least 2 of them, and put something more realistic in (or nothing at all) it would've been a lot better for me - A movie worth seeing though."

Chris says:  "Not to be spoiler-y, but I was on the fence about TAKE THIS WALTZ until the last ten minutes, which redeemed the entire film for me. The 'scrambler' sequences were also incredibly moving and powerful."

Toni says:  "I agree that there were some interesting moments in TAKE THIS WALTZ like the inter-generational shower scene but over all I feel similarly to Hillary and Kate on this one when I saw it.  The characters aside from the Sarah Silverman's part are pretentious to me and the montage what great from a production and editing perspective but did not work for me and I don't think regardless you have to wait that long to get there to care about the characters.  I can see people liking the film though and think people should check it out and see for themselves if the film moves them."

Michael responds:  "As is evidenced by this thread, TAKE THIS WALTZ is certainly not for everyone.  I think I liked it so much because it affected me deeply on a personal level.  I found it to be very honest and explored some issues that were realistic and sad.  There were some beautiful cinematic moments, and others that I found more literary that for some, may not have translated to the big screen as well.

"I found Michelle Williams character and Melanie Lynskey's character in HELLO I MUST BE GOING to be similar, in their indecisiveness, and their internal struggles.  I found both films to be effective and natural in conveying that internal emotional struggle, and while HELLO was more of a triumph, TAKE THIS WALTZ was more like life.

"And as for Sarah Polley, I find her an incredibly mature and thoughtful writer/director.  TAKE THIS WALTZ was clearly a personal vision, and for me at least, a great movie."