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Take This Waltz

Take This Waltz

Released 17 August 2012
Director Sarah Polley

Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Podemski, Diane D'Aquila
Writer(s) Sarah Polley
Producer(s) Susan Cavan, Sarah Polley
Origin Canada, Spain, Japan
Running Time 116 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama
Rating 16

Hurdy Gurdy.

In Sarah Polley's new flick, building upon an almost accumulated essence of character from their last number of films Michelle Williams plays a disaffected, lovelorn lady living in Toronto and Seth Rogen plays her affable everyman husband. Polley, now regarded with equal esteem as both a director and actor, hasn't held the directorial helm since 2006's Away From Her. Received with across the board renown the Oscar nominated film was a delicate tale of heartache that dealt with a man trying to understand his wife's worsening Alzheimer's and the complications it brings when she transfers her affections to another patient in a nursing home. Hitting the top ten lists of all your favourite movie critics in 2007, people expected great things of Polley and the question burning on everyone's lips in 2012 is 'Has she delivered?'

Penned solely by Polley rather than a screenplay of a short story (Away From Her was adapted from Canadian author Alice Munro's The Bear Came Over the Mountain) Take This Waltz doesn't always hold up so well. A further thematic venture into infidelity, if you thought at first glance that Take This Waltz seemed less complicated, less ambitious and lighter fare comparatively, you'd be right. A coffee shop Brief Encounter for a generation that mistook disaffected twenty-something ennui for emotional complexity I often found myself wishing that I'd sat this dance out. And while many might praise Williams' easy performance, which, indeed, is as dependably effortless as in her earlier anti-romance Blue Valentine, as a whole this particular vehicle is far too on the nose to properly carry it. Michelle Williams as Margot a would be writer taking less than literary jobs writing brochures for colonial re-enactment villages meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) on assignment in an opening scene that sees her unenthusiastically roped into fake-flogging a man for the high crime of adultery. Following an inflight flirtation in which Margot pretends to be disabled to avoid her fear of airports and get wheelchair boarding priority (she has a phobia of being between things, you see) the pair of prospective lovers find out that they live across the street from each other, whereupon Margot mentions she's married. Undeterred it seems, Luke pursues her and Margot acquiesces or rather invites and returns the attention, suffocating in her overly comfortable life with her husband Lou (Seth Rogan) a chef writing a book on 100 ways to cook chicken.

Despite excelling at capturing unabashed moments of intimacy as in a nude swimming pool shower conversation between Williams, her friends and an assortment of elderly women or Margot and Lou's often cringeworthily close physical interaction (which is either cute or terribly irksome dependent on your view) the uncontrived is often matched with equal contrivance. Early on we learn that Margot's fear of being in-between things doesn't just extend to airports, of course, she's 'afraid of being afraid' which Daniel a talented artist too fearful to ever show his work agrees is 'the most dangerous thing in the world'. Five minutes in and terrible dialogue has already made me throw up a little internally with many more uncomfortable squints, awkward seat shifts and resultant grimaces to go over the next two or so hours.

While never really insouciant enough to receive any moral wrath from an audience about their affair, many of the characters one feels one ought to like or supposedly feel empathy with, come off horribly, less like humans and more an overindulgent species similar to our own except different in an absence of ability to mature or progress in their twenties past an abhorrent teenage shoe-gaze mentality. And, although, somewhat saved by its last quarter (which slightly turned some of my repugnance on its head) Take This Waltz is never the film one hoped it might be, quirky and precious, unsympathetic and shallow, its occasional successes marred by its many failures.

- Cormac O’Brien