PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

‘Take This Waltz’: The Rites of Summer

Sarah Polley’s passion-drunk film about a summertime flirtation is a lovesick daze of lust and pain and regret.


Take This Waltz

Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Year: 2012
UK Release Date: 2012-08-17
US Release Date: 2012-06-29 (Limited)
Website
Trailer
Love and hate was in the air, like pollen from a flower.

-- Hüsker Dü, “Celebrated Summer”

Somewhere inside the full-tilt lovesick blur that is Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz is the kernel of a wildly uninteresting story. Woman in cozy relationship sans fireworks becomes attracted to new fella, with whom she has fireworks galore, but a dubious future. What to do: stay with husband or fly off with fling? Play the good wife or bad mistress? There’s a spinning galaxy of clichés for writer/director Polley to choose from here, but somehow she skips past them (well, almost all) and delivers a shimmering and raw ode to the ferocity of desire and the heartbreak that so often follows it.

Polley’s window into her story about the near impossibility of happiness is Margot, a twitchy and lonely-eyed young woman played by Michelle Williams as another of her doomed outsider romantics. A writer for the Canadian tourism board whose specialty appears to be pamphlet copy, Margot lives in Toronto on the kind of shaded, curvy, and characterful treelined street that college graduates dream of. Her husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is as grounded as she is nervous, a steady presence who plays the same practical joke every morning and is diligently working through every recipe variation on chicken for a cookbook he’s writing. Her family is nonexistent, his is a great hive of crosstalking arguers who seem to have quickly enfolded Polley into their clangorous embrace.

Her problems start in the film’s deftly written opening scenes, where she is touring a parkland historical reenactment for work, and ends up chatting on the plane with the handsome and extremely flirty Daniel (Luke Kirby). Sharing a cab back from the airport, they discover that not only does he live close by, his apartment is actually across the street from her and Lou’s place. She reacts to this news much like a recovering addict would be upon discovering that a dealer had just moved into the downstairs apartment and was offering discounts to neighbors.

Soon, Margot – who seems to be in something of a pre-midlife funk already, and unable to concentrate at the best of times -- is a distracted mess, unable to stop staring out the window and making excuses to not-so-accidentally run into Daniel. The minor irritations that come with married life quickly take on outsized importance to her. As Margot freezes out Lou more and more, she and Daniel become increasingly brazen in their flirtation, culminating in a session of X-rated conversation at a bar that leaves her dizzied and drunk with desire.

Although Polley takes the lightning-zap intensity of Daniel and Margot’s attraction very seriously, there is also the understanding here that it could all just be a fling and nothing more. Buttressing the theme of addiction is the character of Lou’s sister Geraldine (Sarah Silverman), an alcoholic currently in recovery. Although she only crops up in a few scenes, Geraldine functions as something of a warning system for Margot, making it clear what the price will be for her if she runs off with Daniel and it turns out to not be love. The role could have been a painfully obvious one had Silverman not played it with such raw simplicity. Placing a shock-comic like Silverman in such a pivotal role was a risk for Polley, as was her casting of Rogen as a fairly straightforward and non-comedic character, but both of them pay off immensely.

The casting of Take This Waltz is even more critical than it normally would be for such a sprightly-written piece. Under normal circumstances, a wide array of actors could have been handed Polley’s curiously wise dialogue and made it sing. But the director who used all those monochromatic vistas in the quietly masterful Away from Her has here scorched the screen with the overexposed and rich colors of a fuzzed-out summer sunset. She goes for the details even when shooting at a distance, of dust motes in the air and a slight perspiration sheen on everybody’s skin, as though they were all ready to ripen. Fans are always buzzing in the background, heightening the sense of lazy sensuality. There’s even a critical moment of soaring beauty and crushing reality (scored, in an impossibly non-ridiculous fashion, to “Video Killed the Radio Star”) at an amusement park ride, just to underline Margot’s feeling of being on vacation from her life.

Even with all this warm texturing to the piece, Polley never goes for overripe posturing in a Tennessee Williams way. It’s a mellow film, for all the dangerous passion coursing in its veins. Take This Waltz works its story like a grownup version of some young adult novel about a lonely protagonist whose life changed forever after one magical summer. The problem for Margot is that she’s an adult and when an adolescent passion comes along, it has the potential to destroy more than it creates.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.