Sunday, July 15, 2012

Movie Review: "Take This Waltz"

It's a running joke in show business that nearly every actor wants to be a director someday, and many have successfully made the transition, or still interchange acting and directing. While Sarah Polley might not have reached the level of fame as an actress of George Clooney, Robert Redford, Rob Reiner, or Sean Penn, her performances in movies such as The Sweet Hereafter, Go, and My Life Without Me demonstrated her ability to convey simultaneous vulnerability and inner strength.

Take This Waltz is the second movie Polley wrote and directed, after 2007's Away from Her, which featured a tremendously affecting (and Oscar-nominated) performance by Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer's struggling to make sense of her relationships. In Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams stars as Margo, an indecisive writer in a quirky marriage with Lou (Seth Rogen), who is writing a cookbook of chicken recipes. While on a work trip, Margo meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), who happens to be her neighbor. In just a few minutes of conversation on the airplane and in a taxi home, Margo finds herself telling Daniel things and expressing herself in ways she doesn't feel comfortable with her husband. When they arrive at her house, she says, "I'm married." He replies, "That's too bad."

Margo is a character afraid of making decisions. She's in love with being loved, by her husband and his family (including Lou's sister, reformed alcoholic Geraldine, played by a surprisingly subdued and nuanced Sarah Silverman), yet knows she longs for something more. And Daniel wants to be that something more, although he isn't content just to be a dalliance or a choice that Margo never makes.

While this movie doesn't necessarily break any new ground, Sarah Polley's script, the performances, and Polley's direction lift this movie far above the typical woman-in-love-with-two-men plot. Scenes of absolute simplicity and simple closeups of the actors' faces are tremendously moving and provide such insight into the complexities of the characters' relationships. A scene in a restaurant with racy dialogue is one of the simultaneously sexiest and most poignant scenes I've watched in quite some time.

Seth Rogen gives the best performance of his career, with emotional depth he barely scratched the surface of in last year's superlative 50/50. Luke Kirby gets to be sexy and smoldering quite a bit, yet he brings a complexity to his character, and some of his expressions say more than words could. And Michelle Williams brings her traditional fearlessness to a role which is not always likeable, not always sympathetic, but tremendously complicated. Polley makes you believe that Margo has a difficult decision on her hands, and both men give you reasons Margo should stay and go.

This movie has had a very limited release (and because it was released in Canada last year, it's already available for purchase on iTunes) but it is definitely worth seeing. You'll find yourself thinking about the movie and falling into the dreamlike state that pervades Margo quite a bit.

Watch the trailer.

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