Delivering her second feature as a director, Sarah Polley decided to explore the opposite end of the spectrum from her debut film, Away From Her. The sweltering heat of a sticky Toronto summer sets the table for an interesting spin on the tale of young love and its misgivings. Hard to fully grasp immediately, Take This Waltz‘s cavalcade of questionable circumstances forms its true core.
At the end of her “business” trip in Montreal, Margo has a brief run-in with a young Daniel, who doesn’t get on her good side. On her plane ride home, this same man happens to be seated next to her, so they strike up a conversation that goes over better than their first exchange. They even decide to split a cab from the airport. When it comes to light that Daniel also happens to live across the street from Margo, she has to put her foot down and stop the flirting; she’s happily married. Or is she? She loves her husband and he loves her, but she’s obviously enthralled with Daniel. She fights it at times and embraces it at others. Married at a young age (seemingly twenty-three), Margo and her husband, Lou, are at the phase of their marriage where everything is routine. While no love is lost, this–along with her tendencies to harp on irrational fears–keeps Margo in a see-saw battle with her own feelings, and it becomes hard to deal with.
The weaknesses of Take This Waltz are also its strengths. People will come out of the film all thinking differently. There is a steady theme of understanding that no matter what path you choose you will end up in the same place (a redundant, yet happy marriage). At other times it feels it’s saying the opposite (you shouldn’t force yourself to stick with what you know). Both–or other–explanations are all perfectly understandable and proper, though as they fight each other much like Margo fights her feelings, it boils down to one thing: taking the chances. The chance may be staying true to your husband, or maybe leaving him, but it’s one or the other.
The film spends a lot of time hammering the audience over the head with the key issues. Viewers may be distracted by the unexpected appearance of Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman– completely naked as they share a community shower with a group of older, overweight women–to notice that the entire point of the movie is thrown in your face right there. In discussing their day-to-day lives, Silverman expresses her interest in doing something new when an older woman on the other side of the shower leans in and says, “Everything gets old.” No matter what Margo does, she’ll be the same; her relationship with whomever she is with will end up the same. A lot of tears may be shed (and a lot are), but everything ends up in the same place.
Take This Waltz was partly inspired by the Leonard Cohen song of the same name (which itself is Cohen’s tribute to the poem Pequeño Vals Vienés by Federico García Lorca). The song does appear in the movie, thankfully, as everyone should experience it. Lyrically, it will give you no new insight to what the movie is trying to say, as it all boils down to the title. Yes, the inherent beauty of the song’s imagery and Cohen’s deep croon evoke a romantic livelihood that matches Margo’s passions, but as she makes her choices, you may choose differently. The important thing to remember is find your partner and Take This Waltz.
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Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches