Take This Waltz thrives on ambiguity
Starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, June 29, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Actor-turned-director Sarah Polley’s first feature, 2006’s Away From Her, was a powerful debut with a few confusing flaws. Her follow-up reverses that formulation, with a very thin story occasionally enlivened by sharp and even courageous touches.
Take This Waltz stars Michelle Williams, who specializes in playing women who don’t know what they want. As in Blue Valentine, her Margot is married to someone she’s not quite sure of. He’s no abusive alcoholic, but Seth Rogen’s gruff Lou is addicted to chicken—that is, he’s perpetually working on a book of poultry recipes. Their relationship consists mostly of idiotic, passive-aggressive behaviour that quickly becomes irritating to the audience, and the couple, especially through repetition.
Distraction comes in the form of sad-eyed Daniel (Luke Kirby), whom Margot meets in Nova Scotia and then discovers living—whoa!—right across the street in the groovy Toronto neighbourhood none of them could afford in real life. Margot wants to be a writer, evidence of which we see precisely once. And Daniel is, I kid you not, an artist and a rickshaw driver.
For reasons known best to Polley, who this time developed her own source material and wrote the frequently awkward dialogue, these two snipe at each other like meet-cute types from old screwball comedies—if Irene Dunne and Jimmy Stewart said “fuck you” on the first date. They’re eventually allowed to montage together with the support of Leonard Cohen’s potent title song.
What’s interesting is the ambiguity of motives, as pointed out by Lou’s sister, played well by Sarah Silverman—like Rogen, getting a rare crack at straight drama here—until a nonsensical final scene with her sends the movie completely off the rails. The bravest moment happens in the first half-hour, with Williams and Silverman naked in a public-pool shower, opposite some elderly women. “Everything gets old,” one of the saggy seniors says, needlessly, and the next hour is similarly padded.
Watch the trailer for Take This Waltz.