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Movie Review: Take This Waltz

Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen). Photo by Michael Gibson.

There is no good thing like a new thing. It’s a sentiment that swirls around the mostly charming and happy life of Margot, the married woman in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz that doesn’t really know she wants something different until it literally sits down next to her and doesn’t leave.

It is a curious story that does not tell the tired tale of a woman trying to break free from the monotony of married life, but instead one who is content yet intrigued when she realized her interested flight companion is charming, and also across the street. It is a lot of drama with a bit of whimsy, and will be made all the more interesting to Torontonians in particular and Canadians in general as the influence of Ms. Polley is evident everywhere.

In her writing and directing follow up to Away From Her, Ms. Polley features Toronto prominently, with our married couple taking up residence on a cute street along Queen West. Michelle Williams plays Margot, a slightly awkward and cute young writer married to Seth Rogen’s Lou, who for better or worse, is the emotional center of the film.

If the movie is trying to make Margot’s life out to be something other than enjoyable and pleasant, then it fails. She plays the victim well, finding ways to bump into her male suitor without ever taking responsibility. Her new friend is Daniel (played by Hamiltonian Luke Kirby), a persistent rick-shaw driver who just happens to live on the same street as Margot, within eyesight of her bedroom window.

Williams is solid as the indecisive and often insufferable Margot, a woman who wants to be unhappy, but isn’t, and who wants a man to take charge. Her husband is nothing but fun, hard-working, and silly, and he has the same reaction as the audience when Margot starts picking fights, which is a three word phrase that starts with “what the–?”

Only at times does the film seem to comment on her actions, instead mostly just telling the story and letting the audience decide. She eventually has to make a decision, albeit a predictable and to me, an unfortunate one, but the reaction of Rogen’s character, and that of his alcoholic sister played by Sarah Silverman, are the best parts of the movie.

It is a beautifully shot movie with plenty of fantastic Canadian music, including Feist’s ‘Secret Heart’ and ‘Green Mountain High,” by Corinna Rose. The title, of course, is taken from a Leonard Cohen song, which eventually plays in a climactic montage (one that takes place in what will be a most sought after Toronto apartment).

The more territorial Torontonians may have a problem with some geographic alterations made on the city, most notably putting Kew Beach within quick walking distance of Queen and Dufferin (and College West seems a bit too close as well), and that may quell a bit of sentiment behind a romantic rendezvous, but I suppose Ms. Polley is allowed some poetic license.

The title is fitting though: Margot cannot keep going through life having other people make decisions for her, and at some point, she needs to own up to her actions and take what is there for her. Still, like Margot’s consistent failure to have an opinion, it seems Ms. Polley herself won’t venture too far either way saying her main character is right or wrong in her actions, simply allowing her to weave her own path and reap both the rewards and the consequences, none of which, when the dust settles, seem particularly different than what she had before.

And that there may be the metaphor for the movie. The journey is enjoyable and pretty, with a bit of discomfort mixed, but in the end you are no more sure of things, just a bit older with a new experience to recollect.

[star v=3]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.