*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
Take This Waltz is the story of "Margot" (Michelle Williams) - a married freelance writer who starts to develop mutual feelings for her neighbor "Daniel" (Luke Kirby) who just so happens to live across the street. Throughout the film Margot & Daniel "respectfully flirt" with one another (Daniel is fully aware she's married) but after a while the attraction becomes too strong and Margot leaves her husband "Lou" (Seth Rogen) for Daniel.
|Margot & Lou|
I also get the feeling that Sarah Polley wanted us to understand where Daniel was coming from too. Although almost all of the film is told from Margot's perspective, there's a couple of scenes in Take This Waltz that show how conflicted Daniel is with everything as well. His character is almost like Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson. He comes off so cool & nice that you almost forget he's kind of a snake. In my opinion, a character like Daniel doesn't deserve the luxury of being understood. He knew Margot was married but he still persisted. Basically, fuck that guy...
And to keep it real, Daniel isn't as good looking as I think he's supposed to be (no offense to actor Luke Kirby. You're far more handsome than me). But what do I know? I don't find men attractive so maybe there's something a straight female sees in him that I just don't. As my friend/past PINNLAND EMPIRE contributor Chris Funderberg jokingly put it - had the Luke character been Paul Walker (R.I.P.) it would have been somewhat understandable that Margot was so attracted to him.
On a side note, it is nice to see a female character leave their partner for such vein & superficial reasons. Male characters are almost always exclusively portrayed this way as if women are incapable being slightly shallow in terms of what they want in a partner. At no point in Take This Waltz is there a sex scene between Lou & Margot, yet towards the end of the film there's a sequence where Margot & Daniel try out almost every sexual position there is. This is something else that really pissed me off because it makes Lou look like an even bigger sap than he already is.
This is the kind of film that will separate the sexes (I'm well aware that my masculinity & manhood is the main driving force behind this review). If you go to rotten tomatoes you'll see that with the exception of two female critics, all of the bad reviews came from male critics while every other female critic gave it a positive review. Even one of the two female critics who gave it a bad review overall still had some positive things to say about it.
I have to give Sarah Polley serious credit for striking a chord with "average guys" like myself. Lets's be honest here - the average guy with relationship experience who has seen this film sees themselves in the Lou character more than Daniel (I'm sure a lot of guys wouldn't admit that, but it's true) so they're going to feel a certain kind of way as they watch the events unfold. All my male friends who've seen Take This Waltz dislike it, while the women I know who've see it tend to be more understanding to Margot's situation. I'm not even sure if Sarah Polley meant to strike such a personal chord with men, given this story is clearly geared towards women.
|Daniel & Margot|
Had the sexes been reversed in Take This Waltz, the male equivalent to Margot would have been labeled a scum bag no matter how sensitive they came off. I'm sure the average Jezebel reader is trying to come up with examples to debunk this theory, but face the facts - it's true.
We shouldn’t wish bad things on Margot or even hate her for what she did, but the somewhat lighthearted yet slightly upbeat ambiguous ending is clearly in her favor while Lou, who did nothing to deserve what he got, ends up alone in the end.
Like I said earlier, Take This Waltz isn’t all bad. In my opinion, it has one of the best scores of the last few years and really makes some of the more bland scenes come off better than they should. Jonathan Goldsmith did an amazing job with the music. The swimming pool scene, and the few minutes that lead up to it, is one of the best isolated romantic moments I've seen in a film that doesn’t involve any kind of touching or kissing (it seriously evokes the spirit of the first sleep sequence from Soderbergh's Solaris). And for such a mish-mosh of actors, they all have pretty good chemistry with each other for the most part. Seth Rogen doesn't give a "tour de force" performance but we do see a different side of him than what we're used to (technically this is the best acting he's done so far in his career). But as far as the material he was given to work with, I really felt like the Lou character was the ultimate sap. When Margot leaves him, he's way too understanding & cool about everything (almost like Sarah Polley's father in Stories We Tell).
There's also a subplot in Take This Waltz concerning Margot's friend/Lou’s sister; "Geraldine" (Sarah Silverman) and her struggle with alcoholism that I thought was unnecessary. She could have been a supporting character without all the additional back-story even if it is minor.
I think if this was Sarah Polley's first film I wouldn't be as critical about it but Away From Her (Polley's first film) was so mature that this follow-up almost felt like a step backwards in terms of her exploration of marriage. Perhaps the reason Take This Waltz isn't as mature as Away From Her is because the characters in Waltz are in their late 20's and don't have the same experiences or level of maturity as our 70-something year old characters in Away From Her.
Even though I have some issues with Take This Waltz, I still suggest you all check it out (it's available on Netflix instant). This isn’t some run of the mil indie (I wouldn’t have taken the time to write about it if it was). Maybe there's things about this film I just didn't catch, or maybe I'm just expecting more than I should from it. After all, I've never been married while Sarah Polley has. She briefly mentions her divorce in Stories We Tell. Due to the personal nature of all of her films, I'm sure there's pieces of her real life in Take This Waltz so perhaps I have no idea what I'm talking about...