Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movie Review: "Take This Waltz" (2011)

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Movie"Take This Waltz"
Director: Sarah Polley
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

An awkward woman named Margot (Michelle Williams) meets a man named Daniel (Luke Kirby) while on a business trip. She is immediately attracted to him even though she is happily married to a genuinely nice guy named Lou (Seth Rogen). When it turns out Daniel is actually her neighbor, it makes not acting on her attraction almost impossible, forcing her to decide whether or not to stay faithful to Lou or to act on her desires with Daniel. 

Written and directed by Sarah Polley, "Take this Waltz" is a dramedy about the stagnation of relationships. It stars Michelle Williams as a young woman named Margot, who has been married for five years to a cookbook writer named Lou, played by Seth Rogen. The two are very comfortable with each other and often joke about committing grotesquely violent acts against one another. Marriage, right? Their attitudes and personalities make it seem like they are stuck in a state of emotional arrested development. They both often come off as very immature in different ways. While traveling on a business trip, Margot meets Daniel, played by Luke Kirby, who she is immediately attracted to despite being married. She winds up seated next to him on the plane ride home and the two share a cab once they land, at which point she finds out Daniel is actually her across the street neighbor. This puts her in quite the dilemma. Margot finds herself hanging around outside and leaving the house at odd hours in the day hoping to catch a glimpse of Daniel leaving for work hauling his rickshaw, while Lou is inside cooking new recipes for his latest chicken cookbook. Stolen glances are exchanged, the two clearly have an attraction towards one another, and Margot finds herself doing things she would not normally do under any other circumstances, while Lou is none the wiser. Though nothing physically sexual ever happens between Daniel and Margot, the two talk about what they would do to each other if they had the opportunity. They also make plans to meet up decades in the future at the exact place where they first saw each other because, as Margot puts it, "after 35 years of being faithful to my husband, I think I'll have earned one kiss from you." There is no doubt about Margot and Lou's affections towards one another, and we never quite know if Margot's encounter with Daniel is what exacerbated her uneasiness about her marriage to Lou, so she faces a tough decision: does she stay faithful in her committed, loving yet stagnant and somewhat boring marriage, or does she give it all up for a chance at adventure with a new lover?

"Take This Waltz" is a movie we watched many years ago and didn't care for at the time. Upon reexamination, it's actually quite good, even in its melancholia. The entire film covers the personal struggles its characters have with the aforementioned decision. Does Margot leave the comfortable domestic life she's built over the last five years on a chance at "what if"? Or, does she remain emotionally stunted in her domesticity and in a constant state of tension and awkwardness that threatens to bubble over at any moment with Lou? If Lou finds out about the flirtations between Margot and Daniel, will he let the love of his life go freely, or will he fight for her to stay with him even though he knows she won't truly be happy if she stays? Such a hard-hitting subject can only work if the actors sell the story, and luckily, all three of the principal actors are quite superb. We've always very much enjoyed watching Michelle Williams act, and she has really blossomed into a fantastic actress since her days on "Dawson's Creek." She completely sells the awkward, uncomfortable state Margo seems to live her life in, and she takes us right there with her. It's good to see someone like Seth Rogen, who is usually typecast as a chill stoner dude, in a slightly different role. Though he is still a bit of a man-child here, Rogen feels vulnerable as Lou. Sarah Silverman also takes on a more dramatic part as Lou's alcoholic sister Geraldine, who surprisingly attempts to be the voice of reason when talking to Margot, even though she's almost always drunk. 

Without any expectation the second time around, "Take This Waltz" provides a bittersweet-but-mostly-just-sad film full of engaging characters and enough drama to keep you wholly engaged. At the end of the day, it's the characters that drive this piece of cinema, and they are well written and well directed by Sarah Polley. It's not a perfect movie by any means, and it wasn't until our second time seeing it that we fully appreciated it, but it's worth giving a second chance.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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