Release Date: 17th August, 2012
Director: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Take This Waltz is a dramatic and colourful film around relationships and their shelf life. In a mix of slice-of-life and surrealism, it follows Margot (Michelle Williams), a flightly writer who is distracted by hunky new neighbour, Daniel (Luke Kirby), and has to decide whether she should embrace the ideals of new romance or stay in her comfortable but not-so-exciting marriage to husband Lou (Seth Rogen). Unfortunately, the film fails to deliver anything poignant about temptation and its consequences and instead becomes a headache with the changing styles and irritating characters.
My main problem with Waltz is the swing between its two polarities: the surreal wonder characterised through Daniel, and the mundane slice-of-life symbolising Margot’s life with Lou, a cookbook writer. Interestingly, each form is done well separately in their use of symbolism and as cinematic forms. The husband and wife relationship has been developed off-camera allowing their relationship to flow naturally and the camera never feels intrusive. Instead, most of the information about the couple is gleaned from the mise-en-scene and the casual – if sometimes morbid – dialogue. Mostly the relationship is stable and happy enough but clearly falling into a 5 year-year itch of monotonous chicken dishes and a stale exhaustion.
Conversely, Daniel is a newcomer filled with mystery and so is shown repeatedly in a surreal manner from wordless games of blowing a pen back and forth to bizarre night time not-so-synchronised swimming.
The problem arises when the two styles are interwoven to create the film product. It sounds appealing and imaginative but never quite hits the mark. The disjointed nature of the mix is clearly a metaphor but this doesn’t excuse how irritating it becomes.
Margot herself is an odd creation. I can only imagine she is meant to be another Manic Pixie Dream Girl stuggling to deal with the simplicity of married life failing to entertain her every whim. There are moments when Margot appears relatable or says something important about her feelings but it is mostly a wash given how dull her character actually is. This is the fault of the Manic Pixie trope as it cannot stand on it own bearings. While I suspect that Margot is not necessarily a character to be liked, it is necessary for her personality to be more developed when placed as the protagonist.
Granted, Margot is not the only underdeveloped character with Daniel mostly coming off as a crazed stalker, possibly an homage to the apparently now desired male for women, following in the terrifying footsteps on Edward Cullen and Christian Grey.
The film is not entirely without charm, though often clouded by the main plot. Sarah Silverman’s character, Geraldine, is a shining light of reality both in her self-deprecating humour and her unfortunate alcoholism. It is beside Silverman that Williams shines as the sister-in-law is presented as friend and confidant. One particular highlight is during a water aerobics class which, while slightly out of place, offers genuine laughs as the girls bond, which includes the key message of the film: “even new things become old” leading to the inevitable awkward ending.
Take This Waltz is a slightly-too-long, jarring gaze at interactions and consequences in relationships as they grow over time. There are many talented actors in the film, mostly Silverman and Rogen, who are grossly underused. Similarly, there are a number of interesting aspects to this film but few gel together to create an enjoyable experience and too quickly does the message become tired and old much like the back and forth indecision of Margot.