[15 September 2011]
PopMatters Features Editor
TAKE THIS WALTZ
Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Margot (Michelle Williams) is happily married to a funny, warm, and all-around good man (Seth Rogan). But, she is also falling in love with the dark, mysterious bohemian painter (Luke Kirby) who lives across the street. Sarah Polley’s sophomore film asks of its audience a tricky question: Can you empathize with Margot or not? If you do, Margot’s two hours of agonizing over the decision to leave her husband or not will feel powerfully affecting and gorgeously realised. But, if you decide early on—as many in the press and industry audience around me did—that Margot is a fickle and selfish fool, you are in for a long slog. Happily, I found myself in the former camp, and was able to settle in for what is a heartbreaking, sexy, and witty ride through the fun house of emotional turmoil.
Take This Waltz is set in Polley’s native Toronto and it makes wide use of that city’s funky west end for its locations and local musicians for its score (a real treat for this Torontonian). Indeed, she uses natural light so effectively that the grey old city one is accustomed to seeing onscreen comes across like some northern Tuscany. In the lead role, Williams turns in another radiant performance, and she is backstopped by excellent supporting work from Rogan, Kirby, and a cleverly-cast Sarah Silverman as her sister-in-law and moral compass.
Featuring several brilliant setpieces—a hot wet sex scene that is conducted entirely verbally, a lengthy nude scene in a woman’s shower at the YMCA featuring several women of various ages and sizes—and ending with among the most powerful images that I saw this week, Polley demonstrates a wit and daring that makes one hungry for more.